High Cholesterol in Children
(Hypercholesterolemia in Children)
High cholesterol is a higher than normal level of cholesterol in the blood. It is more common in adults but can happen in children.
There are two types of cholesterol. 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. High levels of cholesterol can lead problems such as heart attacks and strokes in adulthood.
Blockages in the blood vessels can lead to heart attacks.
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Causes may be:
- Being overweight or obese
- A diet that is high in fat and cholesterol
- Low activity levels
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Having a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, or stroke
- Having high blood pressure
- Having certain health problems, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and underactive thyroid
- Some medicines, such as steroids, isotretinoin (an acne medicine), beta-blockers, protease inhibitors, diuretics, and cyclosporin
There are not usually any symptoms.
This problem is often found after a screening test. Screening is done by testing the lipid (fat) levels in the blood when your child is not fasting. More than one test may be done.
The doctor will also ask about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
The goal of treatment is to reach and stay at a healthy cholesterol level. This will lower the risk of future health problems.
- Eating a healthful diet that is low in fat and cholesterol
- Reaching and staying at a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
Children with very high cholesterol and those who are at risk for heart disease may be given cholesterol-lowering medicine, such as statins.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
- Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
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. Accessed March 11, 2021.
Familial hypercholesterolemia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/familial-hypercholesterolemia-in-children. Accessed March 11, 2021.
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nhlbi-integrated-guidelines-for-pediatric-cardiovascular-risk-reduction-22. Accessed March 11, 2021.
School nutrition. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/schoolnutrition.htm. Accessed March 11, 2021.
Youngblom E, Pariani M, et al. Familial Hypercholesterolemia. GeneReviews 2016 Dec 8.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 3/11/2021