Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood. It is needed for building hormones and cells. Everyone needs to have some cholesterol in their blood. What you eat affects the level of cholesterol in our blood. Cholesterol comes from animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. If you eat less cholesterol and saturated fat, you will have less cholesterol in your blood.
Cholesterol has several parts: high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and triglycerides. HDL is called the "good" cholesterol because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver. The liver helps the body get rid of cholesterol. The LDL is called "bad" cholesterol. If you have too much LDL, cholesterol builds up in the arteries. As a result your arteries become clogged. The HDL, LDL, and triglycerides together are called "total cholesterol."
People who have higher-than-normal levels of cholesterol have a higher risk of developing clogged or narrowed blood vessels that carry blood to the heart muscle. Lower cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Reducing children's cholesterol levels with proper diet and exercise is believed to give children a better chance of having low cholesterol when they are adults.
Cholesterol levels for children are as follows:
Total LDL HDL Cholesterol Cholesterol Cholesterol Normal less than 170 less than 120 above 60 Borderline 170-199 120-144 40-60 Abnormal 200 or higher 145 or higher less than 40
New Recommendation (American Academy of Pediatrics 2011): Do cholesterol tests for all children between ages 9 and 11. Repeat the cholesterol tests between ages 17 and 21. The reason for this change is the increasing rate of obesity in our society.
Old Recommendation: Only children who are at high risk for heart disease needed to be screened. Heart disease includes heart attack, chest pain, stroke, or bypass surgery. Your child is at high risk if he or she:
If your child is at high risk, and the test results show the cholesterol level is normal, your child should be checked every 3 to 5 years.
If your child’s total cholesterol level is borderline high (between 171 and 200), your child will start a program that includes a low-fat diet and exercise. Your child’s total cholesterol will probably be rechecked every year
Children with total cholesterol greater than 200 will have a lipid panel test. This test measures the levels of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, as well as total cholesterol. These levels will be checked again after 2 to 4 months of treatment. Usually the test is done the first thing in the morning, before your child eats or drinks anything except water. Your child must be fasting for the test to be accurate.
Your child may need to take medicine to lower cholesterol if:
Talk with your healthcare provider about what is best for your child.
If your child has very high cholesterol, everyone in your family should have their total cholesterol checked. It is helpful to start the whole family on a healthier diet and exercise program.