1 in 5 children and teens has unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Nearly one out of every three American adults has high cholesterol. This “bad” cholesterol causes unhealthy fatty buildup and narrows the arteries resulting in atherosclerosis. Having high cholesterol puts someone at a major risk for developing heart disease.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” says Scott M. Grundy, MD, chairman of the American Heart Association’s guideline writing committee and professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Essentially no one says cholesterol is not important. The whole world now understands — it’s important.”
Because of the potential impact and risks of high cholesterol, the AHA guidlines suggest that doctors consider selective screenings for children as young as 2 years old who have a family history of high cholesterol and/or early heart disease. If children don’t have these high risk factors, the guidelines recommend testing between 9 and 11 and then again between 17 and 21 years of age.
“Many children with high cholesterol problems are also battling weight problems, says Joesph Mahgerefteh, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital, where he directs the Heart Healthy Clinic, a program for children with unhealthy cholesterol levels.
It’s important that we are raising children at a young age to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. Incorporating a healthy diet, promoting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, as well as not smoking cigarettes should be part of this plan. This lifestyle will not only benefit their heart as they grow up, but encourage optimal health. One of the best things parents can do is to be positive role models for their children in how they personally take care of their health.