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University of South Florida

Kids and High Cholesterol

Encourage your children to be active and make heart healthy choices.

Childhood obesity is on the rise, and with it comes, higher cholesterol levels and diabetes.

Typically kids with high cholesterol have a parent who also has elevated cholesterol. Children can inherit high cholesterol levels from their parents, a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). Kids are being treated as early as age 10 for FH to prevent premature heart attacks and stroke.

The 2018 Cholesterol Guidelines provided by the American College of Cardiology reinforce the intervention and treatment of high cholesterol in children and young adults. This is driven by an increasing focus on what is being called primordial prevention, avoiding the development of heart related risk factors at an early age. Plaque development that started in childhood builds over time contributing to a heart attack or stroke in adults in their middle age or older.

Behavior Modification

“Children under the age of 10 in the general population can and do develop early atherosclerotic plaque. If we are to change our cardiovascular outlook as a population, this is the group of patients to target,“ USF Health Cardiologist Dr. Bibhu Mohanty said. “Time and again, studies have demonstrated how difficult it is to instill sustained behavior change in adults. The habits are just too ingrained. If our goal is to prevent heart attack and strokes during a patient’s 5th and 6th decade of life, the under 10 age group is where behavior is still moldable enough to retain sustained favorable change.”

“Parents should steer their children toward healthier choices, limiting sugar laden sodas and fast food. These products have tremendous commercial appeal to kids. They are cheap and frankly, popular with the taste buds. Challenging though it may be in the face of constant media onslaught, peer pressure and ease of access, parents should try their best to instill healthy lifestyle habits in their kids,“ Dr. Mohanty said.

Cholesterol Testing for Kids

As a general guideline, cholesterol tests are given between the ages of 9 and 11 and then again at the ages of 17 and 21.  Cholesterol management and adoption of a heart healthy lifestyle is a commitment for life for children and young adults. Due to a lack of research, statins are only recommended for children and young adults at high risk.

In addition, if a young patient has a significant risk factor, physicians give selective screenings of children as young as two. A particular group of young patients that require our attention are those whose parents have just had a heart attack or stroke at a young age (younger than age 55 for men and younger than 65 for women). As a health care provider, it is important to not only address the disease process in the parent, but bring in their children and get them informed on the importance of modifying their habits to tackle their own future risk as well.

To find out more about changes in the 2018 Cholesterol Guidelines, read Cholesterol Confusion and All About Statins.

We are excited to share our Cardiology department is expanding!  Dr. Jennifer Bennett, Dr. Patrick Chang, and Dr. Rachel Harris are accepting new patients. Learn more about cholesterol and get to know Dr. Jennifer Bennett and Dr. Patrick Chang from USF Health Minute.

To make an appointment with USF Health Cardiology, call (813) 259-0600.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers