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Monitoring Cholesterol Levels in Children

December 7, 2011

High cholesterol in children should not be taken lightly, because it is one of the major contributing factors to heart disease and stroke. Medical research has shown that cardiovascular disease can start developing during childhood, and unhealthy cholesterol levels can make children more vulnerable to heart problems when they grow up.

Checking children's cholesterol levelsUsually, health problems that are linked to high cholesterol will only become evident several years later, making it difficult to determine the connection between cholesterol and children’s health. Nonetheless, it is important that you have your children’s cholesterol levels checked, especially if your family has a history of high cholesterol or early heart disease. By detecting high cholesterol earlier, you will have more time to work with your doctor to reduce your children’s risk of contracting heart disease later on in their lives.

Screening for high cholesterol is recommended for children aged 2 to 10 who:

  • are overweight
  • have a parent with cholesterol level above 240 mg/dL
  • have a family history of premature heart disease
  • have an unknown family history
  • have a parent with heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking habit

The National Cholesterol Education Program has provided guidelines for evaluating cholesterol levels in children aged 2 to 18. Cholesterol levels below 170 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol levels below 110 mg/dL are considered “acceptable”. Children with cholesterol levels of 170 to 199 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol levels of 110 to 129 mg/dL have “borderline” cholesterol. Cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or above and LDL cholesterol levels of 130 mg/dL or above are considered “high”.

Children with “acceptable” cholesterol levels should be checked once every 3 to 5 years, and those with “borderline” cholesterol levels should undergo screening once a year. Kids who have high cholesterol must be rechecked after undergoing lifestyle intervention for 3 to 6 months.