Parents Should Encourage their Kids to do the Following

A holistic pediatrician’s take on statins

Holistic1 “A must read for all pediatricians and the families they serve.”– Dr. Henry Berstein, associate professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School.

If, like the New York Times editorial board, you’re “appalled” that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks that some children as young as 8 should be given drugs to reduce their cholesterol levels – drugs they could be on for the rest of their lives–here’s an alternative child-care resource: “The Holistic Pediatrician” (Quill, $22.95) by Dr. Kathi Kemper, a professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Kemper, who chairs the AAP’s new Section for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, addresses the 25 most common childhood ailments by integrating Western medicine with proven therapies from herbal medicine, homeopathy and other “alternative” healing techniques.

“When given an option between a non-drug home remedy and a drug, nearly 85 percent of parents prefer the home remedy,” she wrote in the introduction.

The second edition was published in 2002; obesity and high cholesterol are not addressed. While she hasn’t read the AAP recommendation in detail, she said she’s “pretty sure we intend the take home message to focus on healthy lifestyle (nutrition and exercise),” she wrote in an e-mail.

But, she added, the cholesterol question implies that parents SHOULD be reducing kids’ cholesterol.

“I am not speaking for the AAP here, but my feeling is that we should be focusing on healthy lifestyle to promote heart health, rather than focusing on one particular biochemical parameter.”

Kemper said parents should encourage their kids to do the following:

  • EAT HEALTHY FOODS. Whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, non-fat dairy, etc. (Kids should) NOT EAT junk food and should avoid fried foods, fast foods, sodas, salty snacks like chips. NOTE that fiber rich foods have proven effectiveness in lowering cholesterol. Antioxidant rich foods such as fruits and vegetables are proven to reduce the inflammation associated with heart disease and autism. Fish oils and fish consumption are linked with lower risks of heart disease. Meat and dairy products (particularly full fat dairy) are linked to increased rates of heart disease and some kinds of cancer.
  • EXERCISE; BE FIT.Get at least 60 minutes of exercise intense enough to lead to sweating at least five days a week. The converse of this is NOT to sit for endless hours in front of a screen. LIMIT screen time to less than 2 hours daily.
  • CONNECT. Social support, community engagement, connections — all important! Eat meals together as a family at least 4 days a week. Join clubs, church, community groups, civic groups, sports teams. All important and associated with improved health.
  • MANAGE STRESS. Whether it’s through exercise or prayer or keeping a journal or meditating or listening to soothing music or taking bubble baths, kids, like adults, need to learn strategies to manage stress in healthy ways before they are tempted to turn to tobacco, alcohol or drugs
  • SLEEP. Lack of sleep contributes to a host of health problems. Kids today are often getting an hour less than they need.

Kemper’s next book, which looks at natural ways to promote mental health, should be out in 2009.


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