Many people have high cholesterol or at least know of family or friends who have high cholesterol or heart disease. What they may not realize, however, is that their own children may have high cholesterol and not even know it.
There are no symptoms for high cholesterol, and unless you have your child checked, you would never know that he/she has high cholesterol.
In fact, 7 to 21% of all children in the U.S. have high or abnormal cholesterol, and 12 to 43% of children with obesity have high or abnormal cholesterol.
Cholesterol in Your Children
Cholesterol is a type of `fat’ in your blood that is essential for your body to function. However, having high cholesterol can clog up arteries so that when children grow up to be adults, they may be at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
This clogging process, also known as atherosclerosis, actually begins in childhood, and not in adulthood! So, childhood is a perfect time to lay a good foundation for their heart to keep them healthy as adults!
When should I have my child’s cholesterol checked?
Every child between the ages of 9-11 years and 17-21 years old should have their cholesterol checked once with a lipid profile.
Your child does not need to fast for a cholesterol screening. However, if the cholesterol is abnormal, then your child’s lipid profile needs to be checked again while they are fasting.
Your child’s cholesterol may also need to be checked…
- if a parent has high cholesterol.
- if a male parent/grandparent had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55 years old.
- if a female parent/grandparent had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 65 years old.
- if your child has high blood pressure, diabetes, is overweight, smokes, or has kidney, heart, or inflammatory issues.
Your child can have their cholesterol checked as early as the age of 2 years old!
My child has high cholesterol & I’m worried. What can I do to help?
Having high cholesterol or any risk for heart issues is often very concerning to parents. They want to make sure that their child’s heart is healthy but often don’t know where to start.
#1 – Talk to your medical provider about your concerns.
Your health care provider can perform the appropriate screenings and get your child and family started on being healthy.
#2 – Keep ‘5210’ in mind when being healthy!
- 5 – Aim for 5 fruits and vegetables daily.
- 2 – Limit non-school screen time to no more than 2 hours daily.
- 1 – Aim for 1 hour of fun physical activity daily.
- 0 – Limit sweetened beverages to 0 per day.
5210 are optimal goals to strive for, but it doesn’t mean that your child has to set these goals as next steps. 5210 helps you to figure out where you and your child can focus on to be healthy. Then, you can set a goal that is realistic that helps you move towards 5210.
For example, if your child is a picky eater, then aiming for 5 fruits and vegetables may not be realistic. A better goal for your child to get started on may be to try 1 fruit every day.
Referrals to the Pediatric Lipid Program
If your child has high cholesterol, the WakeMed Pediatric Lipid Program can be a great resource for you and your family, with locations in Raleigh and Apex. Together, the pediatric lipid specialist and the dietitian work to create a personalized treatment plan with you for each child. They will follow up with your child and family every 3-6 months.
A healthy and realistic plan to improve lifestyle behaviors will be made for your child and family. If necessary, the possibility of starting nutritional supplements or medications may also be discussed.
Call 919-235-6439 to schedule an appointment.
Please bring the following with you to your child’s first appointment:
- Your child’s fasting lipid profile result (or have your pediatrician fax them to us at 919-231-0314). *Two sets of fasting lipid tests are preferable, but at least 1 fasting lipid test is required.
- If available (but not required), fasting lipid test results from your child’s biological parents and siblings who are older than 2 years of age.
- If able (but not required), please bring a 3-day food log: write down what your child was eating or drinking for 3 days. Please also include the amount of what your child was eating or drinking as best as you can.
CDC/NCHS. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2014
Kavey REW, Simons-Morton DG, de Jesus JM and the Expert Panel. Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics 2011;128: S1-44.
About Shirley Huang, MD
Dr. Shirley Huang is a board-certified pediatrician with WakeMed Physician Practices with expertise in pediatric weight and lipid management. She serves as the associate medical director for Pediatric Weight Management as well as the primary physician for the Pediatric Lipid Program.