Cholestrol and Kids


Cholesterol is a type of fat particle found in blood, and is made by the liver; it is needed for the body to perform certain functions, such as building cell walls and producing hormones. While some cholesterol, like HDL cholesterol, is helpful (“H” for helpful); other cholesterol, like LDL cholesterol, is lousy (“L” is for lousy). When you have too much of the lousy kind and not enough of the helpful kind, the likelihood of developing heart disease increases.

Once thought of as a disease of middle age, heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and other blood vessel problems, cholesterol is a growing concern among our children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the incidence of overweight kids and teens has tripled since 1970; today, more than 30% of American kids are considered overweight or obese.

The American Heart Association, along with other childhood obesity experts, blames the epidemic on the growing sedentary lifestyle and lackluster nutritional habits. Think of days filled with television, video games, and other technology that encourages us to sit, and diets filled with fast food and highly processed foods.

Weight and lifestyle are not the only culprits; heart disease can also be in our genes. Family history of early heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure also increases our odds for atherosclerosis (plaque building up in arteries), high cholesterol and lipid abnormalities.

What will land kids on the at-risk list having a family history of high cholesterol or premature heart disease—onset before age 55 for men, 65 for women—or a family history that is unknown.

For children who are overweight, lifestyle changes are the first line of action. Nutritional counseling is helpful for creating a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Exercise is also essential; kids and teens should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day.

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The original article was published in SCIplanet printed magazine, Spring 2014 issue.


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