High cholesterol isn’t just a medical condition that affects adults. Cholesterol problems in children are increasing as childhood obesity increases. Obesity is one of the three main factors that cause high cholesterol in children, along with diet and heredity. Experts are conflicted about the best approach to treatment because cholesterol medications haven’t been thoroughly tested in children, but lifestyle changes alone don’t always drop cholesterol levels as low as they need to go — especially in cases of hereditary high cholesterol.
Establish a Treatment Plan
Talk to your doctor about your child’s cholesterol and coinciding risk for heart disease. You must first establish his heart disease risk before determining the appropriate treatment path.
Begin lifestyle changes alone if your child’s high cholesterol isn’t paired with increased risk of heart disease or existing heart disease.
Begin a combination of medication and lifestyle changes if your doctor believes your child has an increased risk of heart disease and is at least 8 years-old.
Start a regular, family-encouraged exercise routine. Exercise reduces bad cholesterol and helps kids achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Much of this activity can come from play, but at least three days per week that hour should include vigorous, heart-pumping exercise. Try playing sports, riding bikes, swimming or taking walks.
Set rules and create habits that encourage your child to be active, even when not exercising. Put limits on TV, video game and computer time. Enroll your child in karate, gymnastics, cheerleading or other fun but active programs. Encourage activities that help strengthen your child’s muscles and bones like running, kicking and push-ups.
Change your child’s diet so that it revolves around low-calorie, high-fiber, low- saturated-fat foods. Replace fast food, processed meals, microwaveable prepackaged meals, junk food and snacks with fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy products, whole grains and low-fat protein sources. Experiment to find fun and healthy snacks your child enjoys so the changes don’t feel like a punishment.
Monitor your child’s diet to make sure he’s not eating too may calories. Obesity is a contributing factor to high cholesterol in children. Kids need between 1,200 and 2,600 calories daily, depending on age and activity level, to fuel their bodies and maintain their weights. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate number of calories you can subtract from your child’s diet to help him lose weight, but still get all the nutrition his body needs.