Cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and Triglycerides in Children and Adolescents
Cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and
Triglycerides in Children and Teens
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance. It can be found in all parts of your
child’s body. It helps make cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D. The
cholesterol in blood comes from 2 sources. The first source is from the foods your child
eats. The second source is from his or her liver. Your child’s liver can make all of the
cholesterol he or she needs.
Cholesterol and other fats are carried through the blood. They are in the form of round
blobs called lipoproteins. There are 2 main types of lipoproteins. One type is
low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The other type is high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
What is LDL cholesterol?
What is HDL cholesterol?
LDL is often called “bad” cholesterol.
LDL should be low. To help lower LDL,
This type of cholesterol is known as
HDL should be as high as possible. To
Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood. Most of your teen’s body fat
is in the form of triglycerides.
levels of triglycerides are linked with a higher risk of heart disease.
High triglyceride levels may be caused by any of these:
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Gene that causes high triglyceride levels in families (familial
- Eating a lot of high-fat or sugary foods
- Drinking a lot of alcohol
child have a blood lipid test?
lipid screening is a test to look at the levels of the fats in the blood. In the past,
doctors felt that children and teens were not at risk for high cholesterol levels. But
we now know that children and teens are at risk. This is due to things such as:
Being inactive from too much screen time and not enough exercise
High-fat or high-sugar diets
Family history of high cholesterol levels
Children and teens with high cholesterol are at higher risk for heart disease as
adults. Keeping blood cholesterol levels in the normal range reduces this risk.
testing by age
Your child may need to fast before the blood test. This depends on
the type of lipid test done. Fasting means your child should not eat food or drink
anything but water before the test.
Under age 2. Lipid testing is
Ages 2 to 8. Testing is
advised if your child has other risk factors for heart disease. These include
diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, exposure to cigarette smoke, or a family
history of these. Other risk factors include family history of early coronary artery
disease or lipid disorder, kidney disease, or other chronic inflammatory diseases.
Ages 9 to 11. Testing is
advised. This can be done with either a fasting or non-fasting lipid profile.
Ages 12 to 16. Testing is not
advised. This is because of changing lipid levels during puberty. But testing is
advised if your child has risk factors as noted above.
Ages 17 to 21. Testing is
advised. This is because lipid levels are more stable after puberty.
Understanding the test results
full lipid profile can be an important part of your child’s health information. It shows
the levels of each type of fat in the blood. These include LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and
total cholesterol. Your child’s doctor can tell you what the results should be for your
child. In general, healthy levels are:
LDL of less than 130 mg/dL
HDL of greater than 35 mg/dL (less than 35 mg/dL puts your teen at higher risk
for heart disease)
children and teens (ages 2 to 19) have families with high cholesterol or early heart
disease. In these cases, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute advises these
levels for cholesterol:
Less than 170 mg/dL
Less than 110 mg/dL
170 to 199 mg/dL
110 to 129 mg/dL
200 mg/dL or greater
130 mg/dL or greater
high cholesterol in your child or teen
the results of your child’s lipid tests are abnormal, your child’s doctor will work with
you to create a treatment plan. Most children and teens will not need medicine. A
healthy diet, weight loss, and more physical activity may bring your child’s blood lipid
levels to normal. The doctor will track lipid levels and help your child make lifestyle
changes. Your child’s doctor will talk with you about medicine if needed.