Yes, they can. We all know that high cholesterol level is common in adults. But did you know that it could also occur in children? It’s true. In fact, children and teenagers who have high levels of cholesterol may be at risk of premature coronary heart disease as early as this point in their lives. The alarming thing about this is that most parents don’t know that their children are at risk since they are not commonly tested for cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association has made it clear that cholesterol buildup can begin as early as childhood. It’s actually the best time to adopt a healthy lifestyle consisting of heart-healthy diet and regular exercise. This is not only so they could prevent heart diseases now, but also so they can continue leading a healthy life, as they grow older.
The acceptable level of cholesterol in children and teenagers ages 2 to 19 years is 170 to 199 mg/dL. A cholesterol level of 200 or more is already in the borderline and would require changes in diet. A child’s LDL cholesterol should not go further than 130 mg/dL. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, moderate changes in diet are the best ways to control cholesterol level in young people. It’s not recommended to restrict fat intake among children younger than 2 years but those who are over two years old should adopt a diet that consists of 20 to 30 percent calories from fat only. This age group should not consume more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
These can be achieved by replacing fatty foods with grain products, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk. It’s also necessary to focus more on lean meat, poultry, and fish for protein sources. Saturated fats and trans fats which are the leading sources of bad cholesterol should be reduced in their diet.
Instead of feeding children with fried food, grill or bake their lunch and dinner. If you’re going to fry from time to time, use unsaturated cooking oils like olive oil, canola oil, or safflower oil. Instead of stocking the cupboard with processed food items, cook meals from scratch using organic ingredients.
Stay away from fatty and high-sodium snacks and provide healthy alternatives like fruits, whole grain cereals, and yogurt. Always choose low-fat dairy such as skim milk, low-fat yogurt, or low-fat milk. If you’re going to buy any food product, read the labels first to find out how many calories are in the food item per serving.
Of course, a healthy diet isn’t complete without regular proper exercise. Children should be encouraged to go out and play instead of staying inside the house the whole day playing video games. Video games don’t hone your child’s physical and mental skills. They also lead to sedentary lifestyle. Children should enjoy engaging in aerobic exercises like biking, running, walking, swimming, hiking and so on. Physical activity is great since it raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol in the body.