Only half of American teens have normal cholesterol levels

Only half of American teens have normal cholesterol levels
Only half of American teens have normal cholesterol levels

Despite an overall improvement in cholesterol levels in American teens and children from 1999 to 2016, a new study found that only half of American teens have ideal cholesterol levels, and 25% of American teens have clinically high cholesterol levels.

The study was led by Amanda Marma Perak, MD, cardiologist at Anne Children's Hospital and Robert H. Lurie of Chicago.

“High cholesterol in childhood is one of the key risk factors for cardiovascular disease later in life,” said Dr. Marma Perak, who is also an assistant professor of pediatric cardiology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“While we have seen favorable trends in all measurements of cholesterol in children and adolescents over the years, we still need to work harder to ensure that many more children have healthy cholesterol levels.”

“We know that high cholesterol is a critical initiator of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries, and even in childhood it is associated with these changes in blood vessels that can lead to heart attack in adulthood,” she continued.

Adolescents and children should exhibit total cholesterol (TC) less than 170 mg / dL, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol less than 110 mg / dL, and HDL (“good”) cholesterol more than 45 mg / dL. All adolescents and children should be tested for blood cholesterol levels between the ages of 9 and 11, and then again between the ages of 17 and 21.

“If a child is found to have borderline high or high cholesterol levels, we can usually improve those levels through lifestyle changes such as healthier diets and increased physical activity,” said Dr. Marma Perak. “Children are rarely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins.”

The overall positive spike in cholesterol levels in adolescence in the United States has been reported to be declining since 1999. However, the trend towards childhood obesity is still ongoing in the States. Childhood obesity is one of the main causes of low blood cholesterol levels. Dr. Marma Perak said more research is needed to better understand recent adolescent and children's cholesterol statistics.

“Several factors that affect cholesterol levels can be improved, such as lowering the trans fat content in food,” she said.

"While more effort is required, the fact that cholesterol levels are moving in the right direction gives cause for some optimism about the future cardiovascular health of our population, as cholesterol is such an important factor in cardiovascular disease."

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