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Cholesterol and Children (cont.)

What Is Cholesterol?

The body produces cholesterol in the liver and makes what it needs. Additional cholesterol is added from foods, such as egg yolks, dairy products that are not fat free (such as ice cream), and red meat.

A certain amount of cholesterol is important for a child's body to function. Cholesterol helps build cell walls in all tissues and forms hormones. Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up in the walls of the coronary artery feeding blood to the heart muscle, and can lead to blockage and eventual heart disease or heart attack as an adult.

Cholesterol and triglycerides (fats carried in the blood that partially come from foods) are carried in the bloodstream by lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) make up most of a person's cholesterol. This is what is measured when a cholesterol blood test is performed.

  • If a person has too high a level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, the bad kind) in the blood, it can build up in the walls of the arteries and cause a blockage leading to heart attack or stroke. LDL cholesterol numbers need to be low.
  • The HDL (the good kind) lipoprotein can carry cholesterol out of the arteries. HDL cholesterol numbers need to be high.

For some children, it's important to know the levels of the lipoproteins and overall cholesterol level to adjust diet and slow the progress of any build up in arteries early.

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