High Cholesterol in Kids

As children grow, there are many numbers parents have to remember such as birthdays, height and weight, test scores, sports team wins and now (believe it or not) cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol is commonly seen in adults but due to factors including childhood obesity, inactivity and poor diets children are now suffering from elevated cholesterol levels—putting them at risk for heart disease later on in life. Truestar is here to offer ways on how to help your child become heart healthy.

Cholesterol in kids

According to the American Heart Association, about 10% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have high total cholesterol levels (over 200 mcg/dl) putting them at risk for heart disease later in life. In fact, autopsy studies show that heart-damaging plaque is present in about 15 to 20% of the population by age 20. High cholesterol in kids could be due to secondary causes such as hypothyroidism or medications and genetics, as about 1 in 500 children have inherited very high cholesterol levels. However, health practitioners increasingly believe the rise in childhood obesity, inactive kids and poor diets are in large part to blame for this elevated cholesterol phenomenon in kids.

What parents can do

• Get your child checked: Your healthcare practitioner can check your child’s lipid profile (total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol and triglycerides) with a simple blood test. If there is a strong family history of heart disease or if a parent has high cholesterol the child is at an increased risk. A child’s cholesterol is considered high if it is above 200 mcg/dL.

• Aim for a healthy weight: Being overweight and obese is a modifiable risk factor for heart disease. According to the latest statistics, over one-third of Canadian children are overweight and about half of these are considered obese. In the well-known Bogalusa Heart Study, children aged 5 to 17 who were overweight were 2.4 times more likely to have elevated total blood cholesterol levels than children of normal weight. If your child is overweight, see The Right Diet for Overweight Kids and get them on the Truestar weight loss plan for kids.

• Eat the heart-smart way: Dietary modifications can significantly lower total, LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and triglycerides in children and parents. Eating heart healthy consists of a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Some examples of heart healthy foods include:

o Complex carbohydrates rich in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole-grains (e.g. whole wheat, oat bran, spelt and kamut). Try to avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars in white processed flours, pastries, muffins and other baked goods. Also limit candies, chocolate and soda pop.

o Healthy fats such as fish oil, olive oil, safflower oil, canola oil, hemp oil, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, borage oil, avocados and nuts. Avoid bad fats such as those labeled saturated or hydrogenated, vegetable oil, corn oil, shortening, margarine and cottonseed oil, as well as those in red meat and full-fat dairy products.

o Lean protein sources such as fish rich in healthy omega-3 fats (salmon, tuna, mackerel), lean turkey or chicken, egg whites or omega-3 eggs, lowfat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), tofu and soy. Soy products are very beneficial for heart health, as they have been found useful in reducing cholesterol levels. Try soy burgers, ground soy, soy cheeses, soymilk, soy yogurts or soy nuts. Avoid meats high in saturated fat such as steak, pork, hamburgers and ribs.

o Other foods that are useful for reducing cholesterol are oat bran, apple pectin (as in applesauce), millet, garlic and turmeric.

o Also see the Truestar Supplement plan for kids for heart healthy vitamin supplements.

• Get your child moving. Kids today are 40% less active than kids 30 years ago; they are playing video games, surfing the Internet and watching TV instead of participating in physical education or having fun at playgrounds. It is recommended children participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to reduce the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease. Enroll your kids in after-school sports or enjoy walks in the park as a family. See fitness for kids for more information.

Sample Heart Healthy Meal Plan For Kids