High Cholesterol…In Preschoolers?
We typically think of middle-aged adults when talking about high cholesterol. High cholesterol builds up waxy plaque in the arteries of the heart and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In fact, it affects 2 million in the United States—and it turns out that those numbers could be much higher if we include children!
A recent study in Toronto showed an alarming trend in preschool aged children with high non-HDL cholesterol levels, the kind of cholesterol that is a major contributor to cardiovascular risks. Researchers compared height, weight and blood draw samples to data from questionnaires that the parents of the young children had completed. The surveys asked questions about eating habits.
Researchers found that high-fat and cholesterol foods coupled with less active life-styles as well as other “bad habits” like watching television while eating combined to raise kids non-HDL levels significantly.
In 1076 children, researchers saw a 0.02 mmol/L increase for every unit increase in the “eating behaviors subscore” questionnaire. In other words, for every poor eating habit marked on the questionnaire there was a significant uptick of cholesterol in the preschooler’s blood samples.
In 2008, the American Pediatrics Association made recommendations for screenings in children that are overweight or have a family history but that means many children have undetected high cholesterol levels.
What is the best solution? The same advice that a doctor would give an adult: get up and get moving, eat plenty of fresh produce and introduce more cholesterol-lowering foods into your diet!
A meal plan rich in fish, nuts and oats in combination with regular aerobic exercise can help lower cholesterol and help improve heart health quickly.
Instead of giving preschoolers sugary cereal or pastry in the morning, offer them oatmeal with berries. Lunch and dinner should include whole grains whenever possible. Baking or grilling foods is great compared to frying. And of course, raw fruits and veggies are a must.
Kids love smoothies and juices so there are easy ways to entice even the pickiest kids!
The study out of Toronto is a great reminder about children’s nutrition. Aside from the dangers of obesity and diabetes, high-cholesterol is an extremely dangerous side-effect of poor eating habits. It is shocking to think that there are three or four year olds with plaque-filled arteries. We as caregivers have a responsibility to keep kids safe—starting with what we put on their plates.