Your Baby's First Pediatrician Visit--Seattle Mama Doc 101
11 Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician About Familial Hypercholesterolemia
High cholesterol is a health condition that only adults have to worry about — right? Wrong. Adults with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), an inherited form of very high cholesterol, can pass the condition on to their children.
“While what we eat influences our cholesterol levels, for sure, some part of our cholesterol levels are determined by genetic factors that are passed down in families,” says June Tester, MD, co-director of the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Program at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. If you’re a parent with high cholesterol, your child may or may not have cholesterol issues. But, if your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels are extremely high — over 190 mg/dl — “it’s likely that your child might have an issue with cholesterol, too,” Tester says.
In fact, the condition is more common than you think. FH affects about one in 250 people worldwide, with a more rare and serious form — inherited from both parents — affecting about one in every 160,000 to one million people, according to the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation (FHF).
“A major problem, however, is that it’s vastly under-recognized,” says Seth Martin, MD, MHS, FACC, an assistant professor of medicine and cardiology and associate director of the Hopkins Lipid Clinic at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Up to 90 percent of people with FH are undiagnosed, notes the FHF.
Testing for Familial Hypercholesterolemia
The first step is diagnosis — so when is the right time to test your child? As soon as another family member is diagnosed with FH, Dr. Martin says.
All children, regardless of family history, should have a simple blood test to screen for cholesterol problems when they’re 9 to 11 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“If there’s a known history of FH in the family, or a history of a heart attack or stroke in a first-degree relative at an early age — a woman before the age of 65 years and a man before the age of 55 years, for example — screening should definitely be done in the child, even as early as 2 years of age,” Tester says. Though this age is too early for cholesterol medications, dietary changes may be needed.
Prevention and Treatment for Familial Hypercholesterolemia
Without treatment, FH causes atherosclerosis to develop rapidly — a condition in which the blood vessels become narrow, preventing proper blood flow. Atherosclerosis starts setting in during toddlerhood, notes the FHF, and in severe cases, a teenager may suffer a heart attack or sudden death.
Therefore, prevention is your best bet. “FH can absolutely be treated with statin therapy and often other lipid-lowering drugs on top of a healthy lifestyle,” Martin says. “It’s critically important to identify FH at an early age to begin treatment.” The current recommendation is age 8, he adds.
Parents should make sure their children focus on a heart-healthy diet to reduce their risk of a heart attack. That means lean proteins (skinless poultry, fish, lean meats, and beans), plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains (whole-wheat breads, cereals, and pastas). They also need to encourage regular exercise, teach children the importance of not smoking, and they should engage in these heart-smart habits themselves to set a good example for their children and to protect their own health.
Questions to Ask the Pediatrician
Protecting your kids starts with knowing the facts — and the steps you need to take today to help them have a healthier future. Here's a list of questions to help you get started:
- I have high cholesterol. What are the chances that my child will, too?
- Should my child be tested for high cholesterol? What do the tests involve?
- How old should my child be to have testing? How often will testing need to be done?
- At what age should my child start treatment for high cholesterol? What are the treatments?
- What are the risks associated with high cholesterol treatment in children?
- Should I change my child’s diet?
- What other lifestyle changes should I make to keep my child healthy?
- Is my child at risk for other health problems as he or she ages? What health risks might lie ahead?
- Should other family members be checked for high cholesterol?
- What research studies or registries could I participate in?
- Where can I go to learn more?
“If parents are proactive and ask good questions, they can become more engaged and effective in the care of their child,” Martin says. Managing FH is a team sport, with collaboration between parents, kids, and the care team, he adds.
Video: How to Take a Child’s Temperature
Ben Simmons Slams Tinashes Claim That He Was Texting Her While out with Kendall Jenner
A Step-By-Step Guide To Men’s Summer Watches
Tomato, Hummus, and Spinach Sandwich
7 Simple Ways To Keep Winter Weight Gain At Bay
The Taylor Swift Guide to Sophisticated Style
Fall 2014 Mani Report
The 9 Best Winter Boots For Women, No Matter What You Want To Tackle This Season