Raising Healthy Kids: Cholesterol concerns for children

PHILADELPHIA, PA.; April 16, 2014

The Ryan family of Florence, N.J., deals with high cholesterol daily, though you'd never guess it to look at them.

Kyle and Aidan are always in motion.

"I play basketball in winter, and then tennis in the springtime," says Kyle.

"Swimming - 3 times a week," says Aidan. And he has medals to prove his success.

The Ryan brothers have always loved fruit & veggies.

"Every day after school, I usually sometimes have carrots," says Aidan.

Although they may not look like candidates for cholesterol problems, an inherited form puts them at high risk for early heart trouble.

Mom Andrea has high cholesterol, too.

She lost her grandfather to it; he and his brothers all died of major heart attacks in their 40s.

And nearly lost her dad, too.

"In his late 30s, he had a heart attack," she notes. "I was only in high school."

Dr. Julie Brothers of the Children's Hospital Lipid Center says only kids with a family history like the Ryans used to be tested for high cholesterol.

But the nation's obesity problem is putting more and more kids are on a dangerous path.

"That man who has a heart attack at age 40, he didn't just get high cholesterol, didn't just get heart disease - that day, that month, that year, or 5 years before. Most likely he had high cholesterol from childhood," says Dr. Brothers.

Several years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending screening for all kids between the ages of 9 and 11.

The Ryans' pediatrician at first didn't think the boys needed to be tested.

"They're too young for treatment," Andrea says she was told.

But they were tested when the guidelines changed.

"Kyle's was close to 300, Aidan's was close to 400," she says.

Dr. Brothers says if the overall cholesterol is high, or the HDL - the good cholesterol - is low, it can usually be lowered through more activity, a low-fat, high-fiber diet, and cutting out sugar-packed drinks.

"I've had some kids lose 15 pounds by literally just cutting that out - and their cholesterol improves," says Dr. Brothers.

The Ryan family already had a healthy lifestyle, so the boys needed extra help, from medications.

They want to do all they can to reduce their risk.

"I don't want to become like my grandpop. I don't want to experience a heart attack," notes Kyle.

"No," Aidan agrees.

Dr. Brothers says whether it's diet & exercise or taking a pill, families CAN overcome high cholesterol.

And Andrea Ryan says her dad is proof - he turns 69 in July.

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