A quarter of children and teenagers in the United States have clinically high cholesterol levels, according to a new study. These high cholesterol levels put the children at greater risk of developing heart disease in adulthood, paving the way for atherosclerosis and heart attacks. Of the more than 26,000 kids and teens evaluated, only half of them had cholesterol levels in the ideal range.
The data comes from the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which reviewed ‘nationally representative’ info on youth ages 6 to 19. The figures, though concerning, reveal an improvement over the years, according to the study. However, America’s youth still faces concerning long-term cardiovascular health issues related to excessive cholesterol levels.
For kids and teenagers, experts say levels should stay below 110 mg/dL for ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and above 45 mg/dL for ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, with total cholesterol levels falling below 170 mg/dL. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is advocating for youth cholesterol checks at ages 9 to 11 and then again at 17 to 21 years old.
Another quarter of the study’s participants had cholesterol levels that were considered borderline — that is, above the ideal level but still below what would be considered clinically high cholesterol. Eating a better diet and increasing physical activity are typically prescribed as the best ways to improve these levels and, ultimately, long-term health outcomes.
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Marma Perak said:
Although we see favorable trends in all measures of cholesterol in children and adolescents over the years, we still need to work harder to ensure that many more kids have healthy cholesterol levels. We know that high cholesterol is the critical initiator of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, and even in childhood it is associated with these changes in the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack in adulthood.