1. Home
  2. News
  3. Health News

Half of U.S. kids and teens are struggling with cholesterol

Researchers suggest that lifestyle changes could be necessary

Photo (c) kikkerdirk - Fotolia
Worrying about cholesterol levels may not be at the forefront of young consumers’ minds, but according to a new study, it might be something worth consideration.

Researchers found that half of children and teens between the ages of six and 19 are struggling with their cholesterol levels, while a quarter of the same age group has critically high cholesterol levels.

“High cholesterol in childhood is one of the key risk factors for developing heart disease later in life,” said Dr. Marma Perak. “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.”

Knowing the numbers

The researchers were inspired by recent findings that revealed children’s and teens’ cholesterol levels had improved between 1999 and 2016, and they wanted an in-depth look at young people’s health.

They decided to monitor children between the ages of six and 19 years old to determine if their cholesterol levels were cause for concern.

To have cholesterol levels in a healthy range, the researchers broke down recommended totals:

  • “Good” cholesterol: greater than 45 mg/dL

  • “Bad” cholesterol:less than 110 mg/dL

  • Total cholesterol: under 170 mg/dL.

In looking at the children involved in the study, just half of them were in the healthy cholesterol range, and a quarter had cholesterol levels that were considered high risk.

While high cholesterol levels for adults typically lead to prescription medications to help bring the numbers down, that is typically not the case with children, who are resilient enough to lower the numbers by incorporating healthier habits into their day-to-day routines.

“If a child is found to have borderline-high or high levels of cholesterol, we can usually improve those levels through lifestyle changes, such as healthier diet and increased physical activity,” said Dr. Perak. “Children are rarely placed on cholesterol-lowering medications like statins.”

Cholesterol levels can affect children into their adulthood. High levels can lead to other health concerns, so the researchers are pleased that many children are on the right path.

“Although more efforts are needed, the fact that cholesterol levels are moving in the right direction warrants some optimism about the future cardiovascular health of our population since cholesterol is such an important driver of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Perak.

Obesity is cause for concern

The researchers noted that cholesterol levels among children haven’t been startling despite the rise in obesity across the country, and several recent studies have explored how obesity can affect more than just children’s weight.

One study found that children who experience obesity early in life can be affected cognitively down the road, affecting children’s memory and reasoning skills in their first two years of life and knocking down their IQ.

Schoolwide nutrition programs have been found to be effective in helping fight obesity, as children were not only served healthier meals at school, but were provided with the necessary information on how to stay healthy outside of school.

Find a Medical Alert System partner near you.