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Parental guidance: High cholesterol in kids

When a child's total cholesterol level is borderline,

When a child's total cholesterol level is borderline, his or her diet should include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and saturated fats. Credit: Jatinder Marwaha

Q. What is the recommended cholesterol level for children?

A. While the recommended level of total cholesterol for adults is less than 200, for children it's lower. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child ages 2 to 18 should have a total cholesterol level of less than 170. A level of 170 to 199 is borderline high; more than 200 is too high.

Many kids measure borderline, says Dr. Ronald Marino, associate chair of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. "A lot of kids are running 180, 190, 200," he says.

In those cases, parents should be enlisted to help their children increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their diets while decreasing saturated fats, says Dr. Marc S. Jacobson, a New Hyde Park pediatrician specializing in cholesterol and weight issues in children. He also recommends increasing exercise and, if their BMI is too high, managing their weight issues.

They should be retested in several weeks, and, if they are still borderline, a more advanced test that measures the complete lipid profile is warranted, along with a monitored diet and exercise program, Jacobson says.

High cholesterol is a contributor to heart disease and strokes later in life. Both doctors resist prescribing medication unless the child has a genetic predisposition to the problem.

Children should have cholesterol tested by age 11; a simple blood test is done after 12 hours of fasting.

If a child has a family history of high cholesterol, screening should be earlier.

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