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High Cholesterol in Children: The Facts

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in our bodies. It’s used to build cell membranes and, to a lesser extent, create certain hormones. It is essential to our health, but having high levels of cholesterol is very bad and can lead to severe medical problems. That is because cholesterol can get stuck to the wall of the arteries.

Over a long period of time, cholesterol can slowly but surely block arteries and prevent blood from flowing freely.

This is a problem which usually affects adults. It takes time for cholesterol to build up.

However, high cholesterol in children is a growing problem. One US study revealed that as many as 1 in 5 kids already have high cholesterol. If left untreated, this problem will only get worse in adulthood.

What Causes High Cholesterol in Children?

Generally, three factors contribute to high cholesterol levels in children: heredity, diet and obesity.

Heredity

In most cases of children with high cholesterol, there was at least one parent that also suffered from this condition.

When this genetic trait is passed down to kids, its important to remember that having high cholesterol is not their fault. However, knowing in advance that the child has a high likelihood of suffering from high cholesterol allows parents to take preventive measures.

At the very least, these children should be routinely screened and have their cholesterol levels monitored closely.

Diet

Children that have an unhealthy diet are also at increased risk of having a high cholesterol level. Fatty foods are usually rich in cholesterol. Generally, that’s not a good thing. Children with high cholesterol would benefit from substituting chips and fries for a much healthier diet including fruits, veggies, fish, chicken and low fat dairy products.

Obesity

Obesity usually goes hand in hand with a bad diet, but some children are more prone to weight gain than others. In addition to a healthy diet, kids with this problem should also be encouraged to get active.

High cholesterol leads to a medical condition known as atherosclerosis, which means that the arteries are getting narrower and harder. In turn, this can cause serious medical problems: heart attacks, strokes, angina, arrhythmias, high blood pressure and transient ischemic attacks. These health problems can also happen in children.

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