Until a few years ago, high cholesterol was associated with elderly patients. It was a cardiovascular risk factor that increased with age, like diabetes. While in the United States and in some European countries, we could see how their children started to have high levels of cholesterol in the blood, some children were preserved by the Mediterranean diet and the outdoor activities they practiced daily.
Today, the situation is different. The change in eating habits and the sedentary nature of the child population have made hypercholesterolemia a real health problem in pediatrician consultations. It is not difficult to reduce it if the right measures are taken.
Good and Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not bad in itself nor in any quantity. This substance, present in our blood, is essential to life, especially in childhood, so that the child can develop fully. What is harmful is the excess of cholesterol, especially for the heart, because the amount that is not eliminated gradually accumulates in the arteries, which clogs them, narrowing them and preventing the blood from circulating properly.
Pediatricians consider that children should never exceed 180 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl) and if this is the case, the type of high cholesterol will be analyzed. In this analysis, there are two types: bad cholesterol (LDL), which clogs the arteries and causes heart problems, and good cholesterol (HDL) , which protects the heart and prevents cardiovascular disease. If the LDL level is high, you will be given indications on how to adapt your diet so that it can be lowered naturally, and if not, you may be prescribed a pharmacological treatment.
The Keys to Controlling It
A few small changes in diet can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 15 to 25%. Normally, these guidelines apply from the age of three; fats should not be restricted before then, as they are necessary for proper development. Introduce these habits into your diet:
– Fruits, vegetables and plants. They contain few calories, no cholesterol and many antioxidant vitamins that protect against cardiovascular diseases. The ideal is to eat them raw.
– Cereals and legumes. Cereals, especially if they are whole grains, are very rich in fiber, a nutrient that helps reduce the absorption of fats and sugars. Legumes are also rich in vitamins, minerals and are high in fiber.
– Fish. Both fish and poultry are highly recommended because of their low saturated fat content. Choose fatty fish, such as anchovies, bonito, tuna, salmon or sardines. This type of fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which increase good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol.
– Milk and yogurt. From the age of 3, you can give him semi-skimmed milk products. Another option is soy milk, an important source of isoflavones and a very effective product for reducing the most harmful cholesterol.
– Cooking with vegetable oils. The healthiest is olive oil because it reduces LDL cholesterol and increases HDL. Corn and sunflower oils are also beneficial, but avoid palm and coconut oils because of their high saturated fat content.
– Give her nuts. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts contain unsaturated fats, which are very beneficial to health, as well as protein.
– Don’t give up eggs. Eating three eggs a week does not raise cholesterol levels if you prepare them in a healthy way – not fried. Don’t eliminate from your diet something so rich in iron, vitamins and high biological value protein.
– Reduce animal fat. Rather than banning it, avoid excessive consumption of animal fats, which are high in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol. Avoid butter, cream, creamy desserts and excessive consumption of deli meats, sausages and fatty meats. Choose the leaner parts of meats and especially poultry.
– Industrial bakery is forbidden. This type of pastry is rich in saturated and “trans” fats and refined sugars. The consumption of chips, popcorn, soft drinks and sweets is also not recommended.
– Physical activity. One hour of physical activity a day helps children balance their blood sugar and cholesterol levels and use up the remaining calories. Physical activity doesn’t necessarily mean competitive sports, it also means playing in the street, taking walks, climbing stairs…
There you are! You now have all the tips to control your child’s cholesterol level. Do you have any other tips that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.