Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Cholesteral in Children

Category: Child Care


You've probably heard the recommendation that all adults know their level of blood cholesterol, and that adults with high levels lower them through dietary changes and other methods. Since heart disease tends to run in families, many parents are concerned as to whether or not these recommendations apply to children as well.

There are still many unanswered questions on this topic and still much to be learned about the potential for preventing heart disease from childhood on. Most experts agree that it can't hurt and will probably help, to start encouraging a healthier lifestyle in our children.

In general, children with high blood cholesterol tend to have high levels as adults, and their families often have higher rates of heart disease. Acceptable levels of a child's total blood cholesterol should be at or below 170 milligrams per deciliter of blood.

If the child's total cholesterol is significantly higher, the test probably should be repeated to confirm the results. Even if you're very concerned about high blood cholesterol, heart disease or obesity in your family, there is no need to impose dietary restrictions on children up to two years of age, unless specifically recommended by your pediatrician.

During these first two years children need a rich supply of calories, including fats, to support their rapid growth and development.

All children need three full meals a day including foods from the four basic food groups which include meat and fish; dairy; bread; fruits and vegetables. In addition, children who eat lightly at mealtimes may need extra energy from nutritious snacks.

There is no need to ban red meat or milk from children's diets. Red meat provides an excellent source of protein, iron and zinc. Wise choices would be lean cuts of meats, trim visible fats, keep portion size modest and use cooking methods that let fat drain away.

Children tend to cooperate more readily with any effort when they feel like participants. Teach your child to read nutrition labels on food, and let him or her help with food shopping and meal preparation whenever possible.

Children are not likely to make good nutrition a habit unless they are part of the family's everyday life. Your good example is the best teacher. It's never too early to start encouraging choices that will help reduce the risk over the course of a lifetime.