Even average weight kids need to be cholesterol conscious

By Tiffany Wilson, UF Health Jacksonville • Published: July 11th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Have you given up high-cholesterol foods like pizza, but allow it in your kids’ diets?

A new study says it’s just as important to watch your kids’ cholesterol intake as your own.

Pediatric cardiologists at Texas Children’s Hospital screened children between the ages of 9 and 11 for borderline or high cholesterol levels. They found that as many as 1 in 3 children — including average-weight kids — have abnormal cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol can be a strong predictor of how children’s health will fare as adults. Previous studies have shown that 70 percent of kids with high cholesterol will continue to struggle with it as adults. Years of high cholesterol can lead to a number of health complications, including cardiovascular disease. In fact, the American Heart Association says there is compelling evidence that, when adults experience a buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, it most likely began in their childhood.

So why are kids struggling with cholesterol?

A sedentary lifestyle — and easy access to junk food — could have a lot to do with it. A study out of the University of Michigan found that kids who spend two or more hours in front of a TV screen or computer each day eat an average of three-and-a-half snacks every day, compared to the two-and-a-half snacks children with more limited access to technology consume.

So what can you do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having children undergo cholesterol screening between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between the ages of 17 and 21.

Physicians rarely recommend cholesterol medications for children since the long-term effects are unknown. Instead, if there’s an indication your child’s cholesterol is too high, a healthy diet and regular exercise could help curb the trend.