Good news: A recent analysis of cholesterol levels in children and teens showed improvement. The bad news? Only half of kids had readings considered ideal. Overall, 7 percent of kids had high cholesterol from 2009 to 2016, down from 10 percent a decade earlier. In children, a high cholesterol level means a reading of 200 or above, while an ideal measure is below 170.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the body’s cells. The liver makes cholesterol, and it is also in some foods, such as meat and dairy products. The body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if your child or teen has high cholesterol, he or she has a higher risk of heart disease.
Three main factors contribute to high cholesterol in children: an unhealthy diet, a family history of high cholesterol, and obesity.
When and how often your child or teen should get their cholesterol tested depends on age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendation is the first test should be between ages 9 to 11 and repeated every five years. Some children may have the test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.
Lifestyle changes are the main treatment for high cholesterol in children and teens, including being more active, healthy eating and losing weight.
If everyone in the family makes these changes, it will be easier for your child or teen to stick to them, setting them up for a healthier life while helping you build a healthier family.