What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid or fat in the bloodstream that the body makes in order to form integral parts of cells and hormones. It is made by the liver, but can also come from foods in your diet. There are different types of cholesterol carrying proteins, HDL and LDL. LDL (low density lipoproteins) is considered the "bad cholesterol." This type of cholesterol can build up in arteries and block them from delivering blood to parts of the body including the heart and brain. HDL (high density lipoproteins) is considered the "good cholesterol." HDL helps to carry the cholesterol back to the liver where it can be reprocessed. It also helps to protect your arteries from the bad cholesterol.
Why should you care about cholesterol?High "bad cholesterol" can cause arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This may cause strokes, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease. High cholesterol may not affect you immediately, but it may have serious long term consequences.
How does Georgetown test for cholesterol levels?
As some of you have already experienced, Georgetown Pediatrics is now screening your child's cholesterol levels through a finger prick blood test. Originally it was thought that "high cholesterol" only applied to adults and older individuals. This is a myth. Children as young as 2 years old can start to develop high cholesterol levels based on a strong family history. High cholesterol levels can also be caused by lifestyle and diet choices and particularly affect children that are overweight or obese. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening all children ages 9 to 11 and 17-21 REGARDLESS of family history or other risk factors. If there are other risk factors or a family history we may ask to screen your child at your next check-up. If your child's total cholesterol level is high at your visit we may ask you to obtain a fasting lipid panel, either in the office or at an outside lab, for further evaluation.
What are risk factors for high cholesterol?
- Family history of high cholesterol
- A diet high in fats (saturated fats and trans fats)
- Obesity that can occur from both diet and lack of exercise
How can you lower your cholesterol?
- Decrease foods high in saturated or trans fats.
- Avoid commercially prepared foods.
- Exercise at least 60 minutes every day.
- Decrease sugary drinks and choose non-fat or low fat dairy products.
- Ask your pediatrician or nurse practitioner*** We are here to help you and your family lead a healthy life. We have several handouts and nutrition guidelines at all of our offices in order to provide you with all of the information that you need.
You do not actually need to eat any cholesterol in your diet. Your body is able to produce the amount of cholesterol that is needed for daily activities all on its own!