Predict Your Child's Health Future

High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

Hereditary Risk: High

Most Vulnerable: Children whose parents have either of these heart-disease risk factors. If one parent has high blood pressure or high cholesterol, a child's risk is about 50 percent. If both parents are affected, the risk goes up to 75 percent. "The genetic impact for these conditions is very strong," says Ronald Bachman, M.D., chief of genetics at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, in Oakland, California. A child's risk may be particularly high if he has a parent or grandparent who suffered a heart attack or was diagnosed with heart disease before age 55. Studies also show that high blood pressure is most common in African-American and Latino families.

Best Defenses: Get your child screened. While doctors used to think that high blood pressure and high cholesterol only struck adults, they now know the conditions can begin in childhood, increasing the risk of heart disease later in life. The AAP recommends regular blood pressure checks for all kids 3 and older. Children should also have their cholesterol measured by age 5 if a parent has a level of 240 or greater, or if a parent or grandparent has been diagnosed with heart disease. Research suggests that breastfeeding reduces a child's risk of high cholesterol levels. After infancy, be sure that your child eats a balanced diet and exercises every day.

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