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For most teens, adolescence can be a strange and confusing time. The onset of puberty can cause young bodies to grow and sprout in a multitude of ways as children begin to develop into adults. For Skyler Bennett, however, his growth was accompanied by an unhealthy weight gain and, at only 12 years old and approximately 135 pounds, he was at high risk for obesity.
“Skyler was getting heavier and began to worry about his diet,” says Skyler’s father, Brian. “His body mass index was 25, which is considered overweight, and that was when his doctor suggested we contact Children’s Hospital.”
With Skyler’s BMI and weight increasing steadily, Brian wasted no time in contacting the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to schedule Skyler for a lipids assessment. The physicians at Children’s were then able to guide Skyler in his quest to shed the pounds and get fit.
Lipids, most commonly referred to as “fats,” actually encompass a variety of molecules including triglycerides, cholesterol, waxes, and other solubles. A necessary part of any healthy body, lipids help to store energy and provide cushioning around organs. But excessive amounts of lipids within the body can lead to weight gain and heart disease.
Lipids assessments are tests that analyze the levels of certain lipids in the body including triglycerides, cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Having excessively high or low levels of any of these lipids creates a high risk for future heart conditions, such as heart disease or stroke.
When Skyler and his father received the results of the lipids assessment, the results were devastating. “Skyler’s levels were really high—well above what was healthy in a kid his age,” says Brian.
Upon receiving the results of the tests, doctors informed the Bennetts that Skyler’s triglycerides levels were 316mg/dl, his cholesterol 169mg/dl, and his HDL and LDL were 35mg/dl and 57mg/dl, respectively. Healthy levels of triglycerides and cholesterol are less than half the levels that Skyler received on the lipids assessment. It was clear that Skylar needed to make a change before he was in danger of becoming obese.
The results were just what Skyler needed to jumpstart his way to a healthier and slimmer life. “That was my wake-up call,” Skyler says. “I was concerned about my weight beforehand, but the lipids assessment was really the extra push that I needed to change. They painted a picture of what my life would be like and it was terrifying. I didn’t want to be obese. I didn't want to have heart problems when I got older.”
By working closely with Cardiologist Vivek Allada, MD, and Physician Assistant Concetta Lombardo, Skyler and Brian were able make lifestyle changes that improved Skyler’s health. He began to exercise more, eat healthier foods, and eat less.
“I was eating because I was bored,” says Skyler, “which is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. I began to watch what I was eating and started to do cardio.”
With a lot of effort, personal dedication, and the help of Children’s medical experts, Skylar and Brian worked steadily to lower Skylar’s lipid levels and his weight. “It was great that we were able to do all this without any medication,” says Brian. “It was a lot of hard work, but the doctors were really encouraging and supportive.”
Now 14 and a healthy 122 pounds, Skyler is excited to begin his freshman year of high school. His lipid levels are now at healthy levels: His triglycerides fell to 179mg/dl, his cholesterol fell to 155mg/dl, and his HDL and LDL are now at 39mg/dl and 105mg/dl, respectively.
“I know that falling to 122 pounds doesn’t seem like a lot, but Skyler also grew four inches in that time, so it’s a big difference,” Brian says. Currently, Skyler is enjoying his more active lifestyle and is excited to start his freshman year at the Pittsburgh School of Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA). He hopes to one day pursue a career in musical theater and currently performs with the Pittsburgh Musical Theatre, regularly engaging in intense dance classes.
“It wasn’t easy,” Skyler says. “You have to be robust about this type of thing, but I’m in better shape than I ever was.”
“Both of my kids have gone to Children’s,” says Brian. “I went there when I was a kid. It was really encouraging to see how excited the doctors were about helping Skyler. We’ve had such good experiences there.”
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
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