What is high cholesterol in children and teens?

High cholesterol in teens: Overview

Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood. It is needed for many body functions, such as making new cells. Cholesterol is made by your body. It also comes from food you eat. High cholesterol means you have too much of the fat in your blood.

If you have high cholesterol, this fat can build up inside your blood vessel walls. Over time, this raises your risk of having coronary artery disease, a heart attack, or a stroke.

You can improve your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of coronary artery disease with healthy habits. But for some people, cholesterol problems run in the family. If changes in diet and exercise don't improve your cholesterol levels, you and your doctor can decide if medicine is right for you.

How is high cholesterol in children treated?

  • Treatment includes doing the same things you do to prevent high cholesterol. Your doctor may ask that your child eat healthy foods, lose extra weight, and be more active. Work with your doctor or a dietitian to make diet changes so that your child can get proper nutrition while trying to lower cholesterol.
  • Less often, medicines, such as a statin, may be used to help lower cholesterol levels. If this is true for your child, have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.

How can you prevent high cholesterol in children?

You can help prevent high cholesterol by seeing that your child is active and stays at a healthy weight and eats healthy foods.

Help your child be active and stay at a healthy weight

  • Encourage your child to be active each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.
  • Help your child reach and stay at a healthy weight. Be a good role model. Let your child see you eat the healthy foods you want them to eat. When you eat out, order salad instead of fries for a side dish.

Eat more fruits, vegetables, and fiber

  • Try adding more fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks. Dark green, deep orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables are healthy choices.
  • Keep carrots, celery, and other veggies handy for snacks. Buy fruit that is in season and store it where your child can see it so that your child will be tempted to eat it. Cook dishes that have a lot of veggies in them, such as stir-fries and soups.
  • Foods high in fiber may reduce cholesterol levels and provide important vitamins and minerals. High-fiber foods include whole-grain cereals and breads, oatmeal, beans, brown rice, citrus fruits, and apples.
  • Buy whole-grain breads and cereals instead of white bread and pastries.

Limit saturated fat, salt, and sugar

  • Read food labels and try to avoid saturated fat.
  • Use olive or canola oil when you cook.
  • Bake, broil, grill, or steam foods instead of frying them.
  • Limit the amount of high-fat meats your child eats, including hot dogs and sausages. Cut out all visible fat when you prepare meat.
  • Eat fish, skinless poultry, and soy products such as tofu instead of high-fat meats. Try to have your child eat at least two servings of fish a week.
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products.
  • Limit salt (sodium) and added sugar in your child's food and beverages.

Teens: How can you care for yourself when you have high cholesterol?

If your doctor prescribed medicine, take it as instructed, and have a heart-healthy lifestyle. This lifestyle includes eating heart-healthy foods. Be active. Stay at a weight that's healthy for you. Try to get enough sleep. And if you smoke or vape, try to quit.

What puts children and teens at risk for high cholesterol?

A child may have a higher chance of having high cholesterol if the child:

  • Does not eat healthy foods.
  • Has a family history of high cholesterol.

Being overweight and not getting enough exercise may also affect a child's cholesterol levels.

What is high cholesterol in children?

Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood. It is needed for many body functions, such as making new cells. Cholesterol is made by the body and also comes from food your child eats. High cholesterol means your child has too much of this type of fat in their blood.

There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol that builds up inside the blood vessel walls, making them too narrow. This reduces the flow of blood and can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL is the "good" cholesterol that helps clear bad cholesterol from the body.

High cholesterol can be caused by eating food with too much saturated fat in it or by being overweight. It can also run in families.

High cholesterol has no symptoms. You may find out that your child has high cholesterol when your child's doctor does a routine cholesterol test.

High cholesterol in teens: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have any problems.
  • You notice body aches or muscle pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You want help in making diet and exercise changes.
  • You are worried about your cholesterol level.
  • You have family members with very high cholesterol levels.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.