High cholesterol is a higher than normal level of cholesterol in the blood. It is more common in adults but can occur in children.
There are 2 types of cholesterol that may have the most significant effect on cardiovascular disease. One is high density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol. High levels of HDL have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. The second type is called low density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to blockages in the blood vessels. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Blockages in the blood vessels can lead to heart attacks.
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High cholesterol may be caused by a combination of factors, such as:
Risk factors include:
High cholesterol does not usually cause any symptoms.
Screening tests help doctors identify children who have high cholesterol. The screening recommendations are:
Screening is done by testing the lipid levels in the blood when your child is not fasting, for example:
Note: Normal cholesterol levels are different for children than for adults. The doctor will use different cut-off points for diagnosing high cholesterol in your child. If the values are high, they will be repeated when your child has been fasting.
In addition to the blood test, the doctor will:
Lifestyle changes are a very important part of treatment.
Your doctor may recommend that you make changes to your child’s diet, such as:
The doctor may refer you and your child to a registered dietitian. Your child may also be referred to weight loss clinics or cardiologists if very high. In fact most pediatricians would not use statins without a cardiologist recommendation
The doctor may refer your child to a:
Other lifestyle changes include:
The doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication, like statins, if lifestyle changes are not helping. Medication is most often recommended if cholesterol is very high or your child has many risk factors for heart disease. This is usually prescribed by a specialist.
For most children, high cholesterol can be prevented with healthy lifestyle habits such as:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Cholesterol levels in children and adolescents. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Cholesterol-Levels-in-Children-and-Adolescents.aspx. Updated December 3, 2015. Accessed December 21, 2017.
High cholesterol levels in children. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/nutrition/Pages/High-Cholesterol-Levels-in-Children.aspx. Updated December 3, 2015. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Familial hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115368/Familial-hypercholesterolemia. Updated December 18, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900917/NHLBI-integrated-guidelines-for-pediatric-cardiovascular-risk-reduction. Updated February 12, 2013. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Nutrition and the health of young people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/nutrition/pdf/facts.pdf. Updated January 20, 2012. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 7/13/2012