It's seldom that doctors recommend a blood test to check children's cholesterol levels. If they do, it's only when there is a tendency in the family to develop related problems. It's also not something that pediatricians are looking out for when performing a checkup. The question we're addressing today is whether or not is makes sense to regularly check children's cholesterol levels, or is it okay to wait on this until adulthood?
As children are not being regularly and comprehensively checked for high cholesterol, there are often some big surprises for the doctors who perform autopsies following the death of a child in an accident. Even very young people are starting to show sign of choleserol buildup in their circulatory systems.
What surprised physicians who evaluated young soldiers during the Vietnam War and Korean War?
Related scientific findings were gained during the Vietnam War and Korean War. While around 70% of the young American soldiers, aged between 20 and 22 years, were already presenting with circulatory system conditions, namely arterial sclerosis, Asian soldiers of the same age showed no signs of illness. Moreover, the Asian soldiers had completely healthy blood vessels. The Western diet, with high amounts of fat and animal products, had already left its mark on these very young soldiers.
It's true the heart attacks and strokes are a rare occurrence in children, but the development of high cholesterol in children and teens is a reliable indicator of the development of these illnesses in adulthood many decades in the future. Poor eating habits are already creeping into the lives of young people, and they can be very difficult to change later in life.
High cholesterol levels in children are a reliable indicator of heart disease in adulthood!
What cholesterol levels in children do physicians estimate to be acceptable?
Acceptable: below 175 mg/dl
Elevated: 175-199 mg/dl
High-risk: over 200 mg/dl
These values are nonetheless adjusted for the average of our Western diet, and in the view of numerous notable doctors who are working in the field of diet-based medicine, are high estimates. More cautious physicians thus recommend that the following values should be the target for children, and incidentally also for adults:
Ideal cholesterol level: below 150 mg/dl
Ideal LDL cholesterol: below 100 mg/dl
It's been shown in reputable studies that with such values, your children will likely never have heart-related problems. For this reason, we think it's a good idea to follow this recommendation.
Have the cholesterol levels of your children checked annually, and take steps now to change their eating habits to avoid high cholesterol
Here's what you can do: Better nutrition, including wholesome plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, starches) and little or no animal products (meat, fish, milk, dairy products, eggs) and little or no plant-based oils. Please also pay attention to taking in enough calories – a good way to do this is by integrating a good amount of starchy foods into the meal plan. Children and dieting don't generally work!
At what age does it make sense to start checking cholesterol? Is it really necessary?
Here is a clear recommendation: Children 3 and over should have their cholesterol checked yearly!
By following this recommendation, you'll be pushing down the risk that the next generation will develop heart disease. Children will grow up fit and healthy, and it all likelihood they'll avoid many chronic conditions – in addition to circulatory system conditions.
Source: Dr. Charles R. Attwood, Low-Fat Prescription for Kids, Safe and Sensible Eating for Lifelong Health, Penguin Books, New York 1995.
Dr. Attwood was a practicing pediatrician in the US and is among the pioneers in research into the connection between diet and health in children. His life-long work with the health of children is unparalleled. His legacy continues to grow, and many of the dietary recommendations for children that people follow today are based on his tireless work.
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