When we think about eating or exercise for heart health, our first thought usually isn’t about kids’ health. On the contrary – many times we see childhood as a time of indulgence. Ice cream after a soccer game, pizza and a root beer float on the side, and let’s not forget about Halloween.
“I’m a working mom with two kids – I get it. I understand the desire to indulge,” says UW Health pediatric cardiologist Amy Peterson, MD. “But the reality is that as parents one of our most important jobs is to help our kids grow to be healthy adults.”
When you think of a person with high cholesterol, who do you picture?
Maybe an overweight man in his 50s who loves burgers and good old fashioned Wisconsin cheese? Maybe a woman in her 60s who smokes and doesn’t like to exercise?
How about an athletic 9-year-old who plays three different sports and prefers fruit to fast food?
Sometimes, our preconceived notions about high cholesterol don’t match reality – particularly when it comes to kids who inherit high cholesterol from their family. Did you know it was even possible for seemingly healthy children to have cholesterol so high that they’re actually up to 100 times more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke at a young age?
When we think of cholesterol screening, we think in terms of ourselves – not our nine-year-old son or daughter. But new recommendations from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are suggesting children between the ages of 9 and 11 should have their cholesterol checked, and again between ages 17 and 21, regardless of their risk.
Previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised screening children with a family history of early heart disease or high cholesterol, or those children who are obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure. But those guidelines may have resulted in some children with high cholesterol going undiagnosed.