Hyperlipidemia / Cholesterol Problems in Children
Hyperlipidemia is a condition where there are elevated levels of lipids (fats / cholesterol) in the blood, which is a risk factor for developing heart disease.
Multiple other factors such as genetics, diet and exercise, diabetes, and hypertension all contribute to the development of heart disease. Some of these factors are within our control; others are not.
Too much cholesterol in the blood can collect in the arteries and form a plaque (a raised lesion on the inside of an artery), which can clog the flow of blood and result in a heart attack. This process can begin in early childhood.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance found in all foods from animals (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products). Cholesterol is not present in foods that come from plants.
Humans also make cholesterol in our bodies. We need cholesterol, as it is a building block for hormones and a component of cell membranes. The goal of treating patients with elevated lipids is not to eliminate cholesterol from the blood, but to maintain a safe level.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital recommend that all children should be screened for high cholesterol between the ages of 9 to 11 years of age and then again between 17 and 21 years of age. Other age groups should be tested if they have high risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
If an initial blood test shows high lipids, the next step is to do a more detailed test, which is typically done after a 10 - to 12 - hour period of fasting without anything to eat or drink.
When your doctor gets the results from a fasting lipid profile, it will have numbers for total cholesterol, triglyceride, HDL and LDL cholesterol. (In some instances you will get a VLDL level as well.)
Total cholesterol measures three particles found in the blood:
- High density lipoprotein (HDL)
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL)
- Very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) VLDLs are rich in triglycerides (or fats).
HDL and LDL particles are covered with a protein that lets them dissolve in the bloodstream. LDL particles, commonly called “bad” cholesterol, carry most of the body's cholesterol and can begin to form plaque in the blood vessels.
HDLs, also called "good" cholesterol, seem to offer protection against cardiovascular disease by carrying some of the cholesterol out of the bloodstream and preventing it from being deposited.
Triglycerides are fats circulating in your bloodstream. These fats can form from extra calories and sugar in your diet.
Treatment of High Cholesterol in Children
Evidence suggests that children with high cholesterol are likely to have high cholesterol when they are adults. If your child is found to have high cholesterol, treatments may include:
- Healthy diet
- Achieve or maintain a healthy weight
Talk to your doctor at your next visit about cholesterol screening!