A Soda Creek Elementary School student prepares to eat a healthy lunch Friday afternoon. Craig pediatrician Kristie Yarmer said cholesterol tests for kids used to be a “highly unusual,” but now, it’s almost a necessity, particularly if there’s a troublesome family history.

Photo by Scott Franz

A Soda Creek Elementary School student prepares to eat a healthy lunch Friday afternoon. Craig pediatrician Kristie Yarmer said cholesterol tests for kids used to be a “highly unusual,” but now, it’s almost a necessity, particularly if there’s a troublesome family history.

Your Health: Cholesterol a concern for all ages

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Healthy screening levels for children

Cholesterol

LDL: ≤ 110

HDL: ≥ 45

Overall: ≤ 170

Overall cholesterol between 170 and 200 is borderline, and above 200 is considered too high.

Triglycerides

Ages 0 to 9: ≤ 75

Ages 10 to 19: ≤ 90

Triglyceride levels above 100 are too high for younger children, and above 130 is too high for adolescents.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Some health concerns won’t become truly problematic for people until later in life. However, being aware of certain issues within your body at a young age makes it easier to cope with them or even prevent them from being a concern as an adult.

Cholesterol levels are far from just a grown-up matter, and Northwest Colorado medical professionals hope to emphasize that parents should keep their child’s readings in mind.

Kristie Yarmer, pediatrician at The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic, said high cholesterol in children is a health issue that affects the entire country. A poor diet and a lack of activity can cause this in kids, setting them on a course for recurring issues in adulthood.

Unhealthy cholesterol can cause heart attacks and strokes for children and adolescents in very extreme cases, but often, there’s no definite indicator for the affliction. Obesity can be a sign, but even kids at a reasonable weight may have something bad clogging up their arteries as a result of genetics.

Body chemistry is different in everyone, Yarmer said, and the processing of cholesterol can be much more effective in some.

“It’s really not fair for some kids because they can’t help it if their parents or grandparents had problems,” Yarmer said.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a healthy reading for a child should be 45 or greater in “good cholesterol” — HDL — and 110 or lower in the bad kind — LDL — measures not too different from those for adults. Overall, it should be less than 170, with more than 200 considered high.

Accompanying triglyceride levels, which contribute to arteriosclerosis, are a different matter and should be 75 or lower for those younger than age 9 and 90 or lower for older kids. A reading of more than 100 is very high for the first tier, and more than 130 is cause for concern in preteens and teens.

Yarmer recommends parents get cholesterol screenings for their children at least once between ages 9 and 12 and again in their teenage years. Tests for kids used to be a “highly unusual” practice, she said, but now, it’s almost a necessity, particularly if there’s a troublesome family history.

Cholesterol, triglycerides and other levels are things that can be controlled better in childhood. Rarely will children require medication that an adult would need, and simply improving food intake and increasing physical exertion will make a huge difference this early in life.

Foods high in fiber are good at any age, as is a limit on fast food and anything with trans fats, as detailed in TMH’s recent Living Well column. As for activity, an hour of exercise per day will go a long way toward putting a dent in cholesterol numbers.

Even doing something less strenuous such as playing a board game that involves a lot of critical thinking or small movements is a step in the right direction, Yarmer said, stressing that letting a child be completely sedentary in front of the television or computer is going to contribute to a lot of health issues.

Although Northwest Colorado is not exempt from the nationwide problem of cholesterol, the area is one where residents have a multitude of outdoor opportunities throughout the year, she said.

“If we can prevent disease before it ever happens, then we’ve really won the battle,” Yarmer said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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