Adults are not the only people affected by high cholesterol. Children also might have high levels of cholesterol, which can result in health concerns when the child gets older. Too much cholesterol leads to a build-up of a material, called plaque, on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other organs. Plaque can narrow the arteries and block the blood flow to the heart, causing heart problems. Cholesterol also is related to other health problems including stroke.
Cholesterol levels in children are linked to three factors: heredity, diet, and obesity. In most cases, kids with high cholesterol have a parent who also has elevated cholesterol.
Healthcare professionals can check cholesterol in school-age children with a simple blood test. Conducting such a test is especially important if there is a strong family history of heart disease or if a parent of the child has high cholesterol. The blood test results will reveal whether a child's cholesterol is too high.
Updated guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of high cholesterol in children eight years of age and older were issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in July 2008. These guidelines recommend:
The best way to treat cholesterol in children is with a diet and exercise program that involves the entire family. If changes in diet and exercise do not have the desired effect, medicine might be considered for children older than eight.
Some drugs used to treat cholesterol in children include cholestyramine, colestipol, and colesevelam. Recent studies in children with very high cholesterol have supported the safe use of drugs in the statin class. A child's cholesterol levels should be re-tested after three months of dietary changes and/or medicines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that children two years and older follow a healthy diet according to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This should include low-fat dairy products. For children 12 months to two years of age who are overweight or obese, or who have a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease, the use of reduced-fat milk is recommended.
You can help lower your child's cholesterol levels by encouraging him or her to do the following:
Select a variety of foods so your child can get all the nutrients he or she needs. Children and adolescents at higher risk for cardiovascular disease with elevated LDL values above their target goals are advised to undergo nutritional counseling and take part in regular physical activity.
© Copyright 1995-2019 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 07/17/2019