Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Cholesterol Testing for Kids
Setting an example for our kids: cholesterol screening for high cholesterol.
Cholesterol used to be a concept linked to middle age. For many years, we had very little understanding of how and when to check cholesterol levels. This was in part related to the fact that we had very few ways to treat the problem, and rather vague research to help guide us. Now, there is no question that high cholesterol levels are strongly tied to heart disease.
Certainly, cholesterol is only a piece of a very complicated puzzle. Many people have heart attacks with what might conventionally be considered low levels, while others sail along with sky high readings but not a hint of heart disease. If you’ve been reading my column, you know that there are many ways that our diet, lifestyle, and genetics impact our heart health. Nevertheless, we know that we can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 25 to 35 percent, and perhaps as much as 50 percent, by treating high cholesterol. The sooner we get the problem under control, the more of an impact we can make, and the more lives saved.
At the same time that our understanding of cholesterol and its treatment has skyrocketed, so has the triple threat of obesity, fast food, and sedentary lifestyles. We are now seeing conditions in our youngsters formerly associated with midlife, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
That’s why the National Lipid Association now recommends screening all kids ages 9 through 11 for high cholesterol. The blood test is quick and easy, and typically done in a fasting state. For most kids with high readings, simple lifestyle changes will make all the difference. If not, medical treatment may ultimately be necessary.
However, it’s not enough to hold a child responsible. Health begins at home. Parents and the whole family must set the example, take the problem seriously, and show in words and deeds that they love and respect their child enough to do the right thing for everyone’s sake.
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