High cholesterol is a health complication that we typically associate with poor diet and lack of exercise in adults. For children, however, there can be a risk for developing high cholesterol as well. As a parent, it is important to become familiar with the types of cholesterol complications a child may experience and work to avoid these complications by using modified diet, exercise and, when appropriate, the use of medications.
In many families, the complications with high cholesterol are familial in nature and are associated with genetic pre-disposition. In children who are at risk for developing high cholesterol in response to a familial risk, the early indicators will show up on routine blood work. It is important, therefore, that your child undergo regular physical screenings with cholesterol levels checked on an annual basis.
Hypercholesterolemia is a complication that can be genetic in nature and typically if one parent is suffering from the condition, a child will have a 50 percent chance of also developing this cholesterol complication. It is important, therefore, that you monitor this complication through routine blood work but, even before this, you may notice early warning signs which include a slight yellowing of the skin in and around the fingers and eyelids and, in some children, a chronic swelling of tendons.
Beyond hypercholesterolemia, your child may also be at risk for developing hyperlipidemia. Typically, with this familial health complication, your child's triglyceride levels will be relatively normal but elevation of overall cholesterol will be evident. As with other forms of high cholesterol, this complication is a gradual increase overtime and, when early indicators suggest this cholesterol complication is evident in your child, further assessment and screening should be done annually.
High cholesterol is a unique health complication in children and is often not detected early enough in life. If you have a family history of cholesterol complications, it is important to ask your pediatrician to test your child for the complication as well. In doing so, you can alleviate the long term complications associated with cardiovascular disease by catching the disorder early and modifying your child's diet and exercise regimen accordingly.
Sources: The Yale Guide to Children's Nutrition, by William V. Tamborlane, pp. 150-151.