Cholesterol in Children and Teens

Topic Overview

A child may have a higher chance of having high cholesterol if he or she:

  • Is overweight.
  • Does not exercise much.
  • Does not eat healthy foods.
  • Has a family history of high cholesterol.

Cholesterol tests for children and teens

Your child's doctor may suggest a cholesterol test based on your child's age, family history, or a physical exam. A cholesterol test can help a doctor find out early if your child has a cholesterol level that could affect his or her health.

You can ask your child's doctor if your child should have a cholesterol test. There are different recommendations that doctors may follow.1, 2

Cholesterol levels for children and teens

For children and teens:2

Total cholesterol LDL (bad) cholesterol
Best

Less than 170 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)

Less than 110 mg/dL

Borderline high

170–199

110–129

High

200 or above

130 or above

The goal numbers for HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides can depend on your child's age and gender. But in general:

  • HDL (good) cholesterol should be higher than 40 mg/dL.
  • Triglyceride levels should be below 130 mg/dL.

Treatment for high cholesterol

Treatment for high cholesterol typically includes changes in diet and increased physical activity. Work with your doctor or a dietitian to make diet changes so that your child can get proper nutrition while trying to lower cholesterol.

Less commonly, medicines, such as a statin, may be used to help lower cholesterol levels.

If you have concerns about your child's cholesterol, talk with your doctor.

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2007). Screening for lipid disorders in children. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspschlip.htm.
  2. Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213–S256.

Other Works Consulted

  • McCrindle BW, et al. (2007). Drug therapy of high-risk lipid abnormalities in children and adolescents. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, and Obesity in Youth Committee, Council of Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, with the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing. Circulation, 115(14): 1948–1967.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Last Revised June 29, 2012

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