Do you believe that high cholesterol is a condition that only affects adults? If so, you might be surprised to know that the problem can actually start quite young. In fact, in January of 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that one out of every five teens has elevated cholesterol levels. This is particularly concerning when you weigh the consequences. This can include an increased risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in adults today.

High Cholesterol Risks

The CDC findings also reveal that the more a teenager weighs, the higher the likelihood of having unhealthy cholesterol. Yet apparently weight alone isn't the only risk factor.  As many as 14 percent of teens who aren't considered overweight also have high cholesterol readings. Boys are also at greater risk for this condition than girls, according to the researchers.

This information comes from examining the results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the years 1999 to 2006, which included data on more than 3,000 American youth between the ages of 12 and 19.

American Academy of Pediatrics

The CDC announcement comes in the wake of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) releasing revised guidelines in 2008 on cholesterol screenings for young people. The updated recommendations include providing screenings for children who are overweight or obese, as well as those who have a family history of high cholesterol problems or heart disease.

Further, an article in the July 2008 Pediatrics journal calls on pediatricians to educate children and parents on the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices to prevent cardiovascular disease beginning in early childhood.

What this Means

If you wonder what all this means for your own child and his wellbeing, there are several key points to consider. First, if your child is high risk, talk to your pediatrician about having his cholesterol assessed. You should also start teaching him to make smart nutritional choices right from a very young age. For instance, the APA now recommends that children at risk for high cholesterol should choose low-fat milk and avoid foods that contain saturated fat. All children should also engage in regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

Be Proactive

Also keep in mind that the total cholesterol level isn't the only factor that needs to be considered. The ideal situation for your child is for him to have low-levels of low-density lipoprotein, which is commonly referred to as LDL or  "bad" cholesterol, and high levels of high-density lipoprotein, called HDL or "good" cholesterol. This is essential, since the LDL clogs the arteries, while the HDL carries the LDL away so it can't do any harm. Children with an unhealthy cholesterol profile may also benefit from starting cholesterol medication.



US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention