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Why You Might Want To Test Your 2-Year-Old’s Cholesterol

flickr / Michael Bentley

Cholesterol is one of those things that just sounds gross. It conjures images of nasty, gunked-up veins and your wheezy uncle Bill with his angioplasty punchcard (fourth one’s on them!). But it also conjures thoughts of delicious chili dogs, french fries for days, and your favorite “hell-yes-we-fried-it” fair food.

You go an get tested to make sure your levels are ok — but do you check your kid’s levels? As preposterous as a kid on Lipitor might sound, high cholesterol levels aren’t just for dads and uncle Bills anymore. Cholesterol can also be inherited. Worst. Inheritance. Ever.

Why You’d Test A Kid

A recent study from the Center For Disease Control (CDC) shows that lifespans in the U.S. decreased in 2015. That decrease was largely due to an increase in deaths from of heart disease. Heart disease is linked directly to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. That’s the bad kind.

Some of this could be attributed to obesity and a crappy diet (sticks of butter really should come in a fun size). But, many incidences of high cholesterol are linked to inherited conditions. So, if you have high cholesterol, it’s likely your kid might have it, too. That’s not the worst thing you could pass on to your kid. That honor goes to your hairline.

The Recommendations

The American Association Of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends testing children around age 2 (but not sooner). That’s particularly true if a parent or relative carries a history of issues with high lipid levels. Kid cholesterol checks should also occur if they are above the 95th percentile in weight on standard growth charts.

Those tests become even more urgent if they’re exposed to other risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, or exposure to cigarette smoke. And if you’re smoking around the kid — just stop.

The Intervention

It is highly unlikely your kid is going to be receiving statins (cholesterol reducing drugs) due to high cholesterol levels at this tender age. So your interventions are largely going to be behavioral. And considering they’re 2, that means your behavior, buck-o. Try this instead of Crestor:

  • Add more high fiber and whole grain foods to their diet
  • Have them eat more fruit
  • Get them out on walks with you — small ones
  • Choose more lean proteins
  • Don’t fry stuff. Bake, grill, broil, roast or poach instead
  • Try to replace processed food with healthy alternatives

Happily, all of the above will be good for the entire family. So, it’s like healing 2 birds with one celery stick. Or something.

A Case For Earlier Genetic Testing

In the U.S., experts do not recommend a standard lipids test before the age of 2. However, a British study suggests that testing for genetic disorders which affect cholesterol could lower the risk of heart disease in adults as well as children. It’s like a BOGO for your ticker.

During the study, researchers found that for every 1,000 babies receiving a heel prick blood test, 4 babies and 4 adults were found to be high risk for heart disease. This was largely due to the identification of genetic disorders that the adults didn’t even realize they had. But, for some of the kids, it was actual high cholesterol in their blood.

This hasn’t changed the recommendation from U.S. organizations, but it does show that if your toddler is tested at 2, you might get a bit of insight about your own system. Chow down on that butter stick while you can.