Lowering cholesterol in children

May 22, 2013 1:28:00 PM PDT
We've all heard about how important it is to control our good and bad cholesterol, HDL and LDL. But there's another fat in the blood called triglycerides which may predict which young people are most at risk for life-threatening disease.

It's the comparison of triglycerides and HDL that dictates risk in people ages 10 to twenty six, says a report in the journal pediatrics, risk for heart attack, stroke and sudden death. But this new information also may give doctors and kids a change to reverse that risk.

Chris Sciacca, 16, is extending his life. When he began exercising, he was twenty-five pounds heavier.

"You want to feel better about yourself. I tried diets, but everyone knows that diets never really work," Sciacca said.

Just as worrisome for Chris, his blood level of good cholesterol called HDL was low, and another blood fat called triglycerides was high. This recent report found the higher the triglycerides and the lower the HDL, the more the kids were at risk for early hardening of the arteries, and later heart attacks and strokes.

"Triglycerides increase primarily because of poor nutrition - high fat foods, high carb foods - the kind of the staple diet of kids in this day and age," David Scott, M.S. at Goryeb Children's Hospital, said.

Chris has been changing his diet habits. No more soda for one. Instead of pizza, Chris opts for a turkey sandwich, which has less fat.

Exercise raises HDL levels, and gets rid of fat. Exercise physiologist David Scott uses this device called the bod pod to precisely measure Chris's body fat. It's strong motivation. In just three months, he's lost twenty-five pounds.

"When school starts, I would like to be down 50 pounds. You feel a lot more comfortable with yourself, but I still have a while to go. My friends notice, but I still have a while to go," he said.

Chris won't have his blood levels of triglycerides and HDL cholesterol repeated for about six months. David Scott says that programs such as the one Chris is following take about 18 months to instill new healthy habits to keep for a lifetime. But the upside of that commitment is a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and sudden death.