Pediatric Cardiovascular Health and Disease Prevention
What is it?
Heart disease is becoming more and more frequent in children and adolescents. Some adults with heart disease lived with lipid disorders as children, which predisposed them to heart problems, such as coronary artery disease. One of the greatest risk factors for coronary artery disease is disorders of lipid metabolism (dyslipidemias). They include:
- Elevated total cholesterol (TC)
- Elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)
- Elevated triglycerides
- Deficiencies in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C)
These disorders can be acquired through poor diet or other behaviors, or they can be familial, coming from a strong family/hereditary link. Identifying children with lipid disorders is an important step toward helping prevent and decrease their risk coronary artery disease.
Routine screening is not recommended for all children, so pediatricians must decide when to screen their patients for lipid disorders. Usually this means:
- Children with genetic conditions like hypercholesterolemia
- Children with diabetes
- Children who are obese or are suspected to have a poor diet may be screened, depending on other factors
When screening for dyslipidemia in children, pediatric cardiologists at Loyola typically perform the following tests:
- Total cholesterol (TC) – either fasting or nonfasting
- HDL-C – either fasting or nonfasting
- LDL-C – for accuracy, fasting samples must be taken
At Loyola, we like to focus on disease prevention whenever possible. Abnormal lipid levels in children have been strongly associated with the risk of coronary artery disease and related heart problems in adulthood. And studies show that early intervention in children and adolescents can go a long way toward preventing heart disease.
Screening is a relatively easy way to identify dyslipidemia in children, and there is evidence that it can be very helpful in identifying children whom are at greater risk for problems later in life.
Once at-risk children are identified, pediatric cardiologists can work with patients and their families to come up with a plan to manage dyslipidemia and build healthy habits into their lifestyle. The goal is to decrease risk of heart disease and improve quality of life – now and in the future.
A well-balanced, healthy diet and exercise are important for everyone’s health, but they are especially important for children who have an increased risk for coronary artery disease due to dyslipidemia. Children at risk should work to maintain a healthy weight because childhood obesity may lead to an even greater risk of coronary artery disease.
Lipid lowering agents, such as medication to reduce certain blood cholesterol, can be effective and even necessary in some patients.