Cholesterol levels in teens are linked to diet, being overweight, or having a parent with high cholesterol.
If your cholesterol level is high or borderline high, start this treatment program. If your cholesterol level is normal, it is still a good idea for your whole family to follow these recommendations.
High cholesterol is not the only risk factor for coronary heart disease. Other risk factors are just as harmful: physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. The more risk factors that you have, the higher your risk of heart disease. Living a long and healthy life requires healthy eating and regular exercise. It is easier to start these habits as a teenager than to have to adopt them as an adult. If you follow most of these recommendations, you are protecting your heart and blood vessels.
The American Heart Association recommends a low-cholesterol, low saturated-fat diet for all adults and children over 1 year of age.
Eating foods that contain cholesterol raises our blood cholesterol levels. Foods that come from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains, do not contain cholesterol. Foods that come from animals, such as meats, eggs, and milk products, do contain cholesterol.
Eating saturated fats also raises blood cholesterol levels because fat causes our bodies to make more cholesterol. Even if we don't eat any fat, the liver produces a small amount of cholesterol each day. Therefore, we will always have some cholesterol in our blood.
Currently, most Americans get 40% of their daily calories from fat. However, in a healthy diet no more than 30% of the total calories should come from fat. The goal is to eat fat in moderation. You do not have to eliminate fat from your diet entirely. Lower the amount of fat you eat so that fat provides no more than 30% of your daily calories.
Eating a low-fat diet will help lower your cholesterol level and is rather easy:
Exercise is the best way to raise the level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol) in your blood. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of vigorous (aerobic) exercise 3 or more times each week. For exercise to be vigorous it must involve the large muscles of the legs and cause your heart to beat faster. Vigorous exercise also improves your heart's response to work.
Try the following forms of exercise:
People who are overweight tend to have a low HDL and a high LDL, which is the opposite of what is good for them. Achieving an ideal body weight will improve your blood cholesterol levels.
Fat has twice as many calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrates. When a person eats less fat each day, he automatically gets less calories from his food each day. A low-fat diet AND exercise are the key ingredients for losing weight.
If you are a smoker, a good way to raise your HDL level is to stop smoking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that some teens under 18 years of age should take medicine to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Medicines may be helpful if you have:
Other things that affect whether medicine might be needed to control cholesterol are:
Your healthcare provider may refer you to a heart specialist to help decide if medicine is right for you.
If your level of cholesterol remains high even though you follow these treatment recommendations, talk with a nutritionist about special diets. Also, join an exercise program at a local gym or fitness center. These additional steps will usually help you. If changes in diet and exercise do not lower cholesterol, you may need to take medicine.
Generally, if you have high cholesterol (above the 95th percentile), your cholesterol level is checked again about 2 to 4 months after you start a program to lower it. If the cholesterol level is borderline high (above the 75th percentile), it is usually checked yearly.