Cardiovascular Disease in Children?
Like diabetes, it’s not unusual to see children with high cholesterol, arterial plaques and rising incidence of childhood heart disease, which were once considered to be primarily adult diseases. We are now at a juncture where young children are taking potent cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins in order to stay healthy and prevent heart disease.
Although genetics may play a role in heart disease, poor diets and lack of exercise are probably more significant factors behind the rising incidence of childhood heart disease. For instance, bad cholesterol (LDL) can build up as plaque on the walls of arteries causing hardening and narrowing that reduces blood flow to the heart. This problem can develop at a very early age in children if they have a diet high in bad fats.
Physicians are now compelled to prescribe drugs with serious side effects to children when diet and exercise fail to produce the necessary reduction in cholesterol levels—and there is only a limited amount f data available from study regarding safety when using statin drugs with children. Nevertheless, it’s necessary for physicians to treat children with high cholesterol to prevent major health problems later in life, or even in their early twenties. High cholesterol is linked to strokes and heart disease, which is the number one killer of women and men in America.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that total cholesterol for children, adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 should be under 170, and a number over 200 is considered too high. The bad cholesterol (LDL) should be below 110 and the good and protective cholesterol (HDL) should be above 35. Unfortunately, some children have cholesterol levels approaching 300, and statistics show that the number of children requiring prescriptions is steadily rising.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Depression
Five out of every hundred school children are diagnosed and treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adults have been diagnosed with the disorder as well, suggesting the possibility that they might have had the disease in childhood. But the difference is that more children are probably diagnosed with the disease today due to excessive consumption of sugar and fructose in refined grains, cereals and sodas.
Children with ADHD are hyperactive, impulsive, and have difficulty concentrating and learning. They don’t sit still for very long, and their attention span is usually very short. They may also do poorly in school, and are often the center of attention because of their disruptive behavior. A child exhibiting these symptoms could have ADHD, but most often, the child may be reacting to the over-load of sugar in the diet. It’s important to know that medications, such as Ritalin used to treat children with ADHD is itself a stimulant that has many unpleasant side effects, and may even be counterproductive.
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, cut out the sugar and sweets, and try adding foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseed oil or fish oil. This approach may help to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and even the need for medications.
Our children are also more frequently diagnosed today with depression than in the past. Depression is often treated with powerful antidepressants that were only thought suitable for adults. Perhaps, drugs should be used only after only exhausting other alternative treatments, such as diet and lifestyle changes to determine if these methods can help reduce the symptoms of depression in a child.
Another area of concern for young children is the development of skin lesions, such as acne and fatty streaks or stretch marks that may be the result of obesity attributed to poor diet—the consumption of sugars, sodium and fats that are saturated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used in processed foods. Eating salmon, leafy vegetables, fruits and flaxseed oil, including whole grains can help heal the skin and tissues and restore the skin integrity.
Childhood Autism on the Rise?
Nowadays parents have genuine reason to be worried about a frightening disease whose cause is not known—autism. There is no telling whose young child will be next. Childhood autism is now found in about 1 in 150 children displaying a range of behaviors, including inability to socialize or expressing themselves. Could this disease too be linked to silent inflammation as a result of environmental causes like radiation, toxins and pesticides? The causes of autism remain under investigation with no clear data at the present time to identify the reasons that some children suffer from the disorder.
Summary of Health Risks Associated With Obesity
The diseases that you have seen so far are only a snapshot of the many medical problems that kids are suffering from today that were formerly considered diseases of adults. Below is a summary of chronic disease that your child could possibly be a victim of because of the inflammatory excess body fat:
• Syndrome X
• Type 2 diabetes
• High blood cholesterol
• Breathing problems
• Sleep apnea
• Depression & mood disorders
• Heartburn/acid reflux, bloating
• Psychological disorders
• Cholesterol, arterial plaques
• Hyperactivity & attention deficit disorder
The link between obesity and chronic disease is strong and many diseases found in children today are not necessarily due to genetics, but rather to their expanding waistlines and inflammatory belly fat. That’s
why you should get into the habit of measuring not only the weight, but also your child’s body fat and waist circumference. A wider waistline can be used to identify those children who are at higher risk for developing obesity—associated chronic diseases. Accumulating extra belly fat is more dangerous than the general weight gain, because this excess adipose tissue is a major source of inflammation. That’s why you should be motivated to help your child reduce belly fat in spite of a normal laboratory reading in measures such as sugar and cholesterol or the overall weight of your child.
This article was excerpted from:
New Prescription for Childhood Obesity
by Billy C Johnson, MD, PhD.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, iUniverse. Copyright 2008. www.iuniverse.com