And, Quivers said that while family history definitely plays a role in the development of high cholesterol, sedentary behavior and a diet full of high-calorie, fatty foods can also affect a child's cholesterol and cardiovascular risk factors.
"There is a genetic as well as an environmental component to cholesterol levels," said Quivers.
In addition, the most widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs -- statins -- carry certain risks, including the development of a disorder that causes severe muscle damage and in very rare cases can be fatal. Even if children fit the criteria for possible cholesterol-lowering drugs, the first line of defense against high cholesterol, according to the National Cholesterol Education Project, is a change in lifestyle, including regular physical activity, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and, if necessary, losing weight.
An NCEP expert panel has suggested, however, that cholesterol medications be considered if a child with abnormally high cholesterol is at least 8 years old and has not met therapeutic goals after at least 6 months of following a dietary plan designed to lower cholesterol.
Learn more about cholesterol in children from the Nemours Foundation KidsHealth Web site.
SOURCES: William Neal, M.D., professor of pediatrics, and director, the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities (CARDIAC) Project, Robert C. Byrd Health Science Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown; Eric Quivers, M.D., director of preventative cardiology, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; August 2010, Pediatrics
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