Our pediatrician checked my teenager’s cholesterol and it came back high. What should we do?
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended routine cholesterol screening for all young people ages 9-11 and 17-21 years. Since then, we have seen many more young people screened for cholesterol problems, although overall screening rates remain low. Cholesterol is an important part of heart health, along with having a healthy diet, exercise, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and avoiding all tobacco products. When doctors check cholesterol, it is important to think about all of these healthy heart factors.
The 2011 Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents recommend this overall heart healthy approach and give specific recommendations for high cholesterol.
Cholesterol serves an important function in our body, and not all high cholesterol is bad. In fact, we want the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “healthy” cholesterol, to be high (greater than 45 mg/dl is best). But the other cholesterol values—total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol and triglycerides—should be kept below certain thresholds if possible. (Total cholesterol less than 170 mg/dl, LDL cholesterol less than 110mg/dl, and triglycerides less than 90 mg/dl are best.)
Most young people with high LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides are best treated with diet and exercise changes. We recommend that these teens: