High cholesterol in childhood

June 28, 2016 by From Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network

Dear Mayo Clinic: My grandson is 11 and already has high cholesterol. He does not eat a lot of junk food and plays many sports, but we do have high cholesterol in our family. Could this be hereditary, and, if so, is it common to show up in such a young person?

A: High cholesterol certainly can be genetic, and it may show up at an early age in some people. Although your grandson can't do anything about his genetics, he can make lifestyle choices to help manage his cholesterol. If that isn't enough, then medication to help control cholesterol may be an option, too.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found within the fats, or lipids, in blood. Cholesterol is carried through the blood attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. You may have heard of different kinds of cholesterol. They are based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is sometimes called bad cholesterol. It transports cholesterol particles throughout the body. LDL cholesterol builds up on the walls of the arteries, making them hard and narrow. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is considered good cholesterol. It picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to the liver.

While the body needs some cholesterol to build healthy cells, having too much cholesterol can raise a person's risk for heart disease. High cholesterol, particularly high levels of LDL, can lead to the development of fatty deposits in blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits can make it hard for blood to flow through the arteries. When that happens, the heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs. That raises the risk of a heart attack. If blood flow to the brain is reduced, that can cause a stroke.

High cholesterol does have a tendency to run in families, and genetics play a role in a person's risk for developing high cholesterol. For example, genetic makeup may keep cells from effectively removing LDL cholesterol from the blood or cause the liver to produce too much cholesterol.

When a young person, such as your grandson, has high cholesterol, the first steps to help control cholesterol usually involve lifestyle changes. Getting regular exercise and staying at a healthy weight both can go a long way to managing cholesterol levels. It sounds like your grandson is already active in sports. He should continue those activities, with a goal of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. He also should limit the amount of time he spends in front of computers, tablets, televisions and phones.

Eating a healthy diet is also important for cholesterol control. Working with a dietitian can be very useful for families who have children dealing with high cholesterol. A dietitian can assess your grandson's eating habits and recommend changes, such as avoiding processed foods that contain large amounts of saturated fats and sugars, for example. The dietitian also can offer ideas for healthy food choices and recipes for the entire family.

In some cases, lifestyle changes may not be enough to keep cholesterol in check, and medication is necessary to bring cholesterol down to a healthy level. It is important to lower high cholesterol in children, because, if left untreated, eventually can lead to narrowed and hardened arteries, increasing the risk of serious health problems later in life.

Explore further: High and low levels of 'good cholesterol' may cause premature death

7 shares

Related Stories

High and low levels of 'good cholesterol' may cause premature death

August 11, 2016
Commonly touted as "good cholesterol" for helping to reduce risk of stroke and heart attack, both high and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol may increase a person's risk of premature death, according ...

Barley lowers not one but two types of 'bad cholesterol', review suggests

June 8, 2016
Eating barley or foods containing barley significantly reduced levels of two types of "bad cholesterol" associated with cardiovascular risk, a St. Michael's Hospital research paper has found.

CDC: Cholesterol levels continue to drop

April 24, 2012
(AP) -- U.S. health officials say only 13 percent of U.S. adults have high total cholesterol. That may seem incredible in a nation where two-thirds of adults are overweight.

Too few Americans are taking needed cholesterol-lowering drugs: CDC

December 3, 2015
(HealthDay)—Nearly half of American adults who should be taking cholesterol-lowering drugs don't, federal government researchers report.

Photographic cholesterol test

August 17, 2012
Researchers in India have developed a total cholesterol test that uses a digital camera to take a snapshot of the back of the patient's hand rather than a blood sample. The image obtained is cropped and compared with images ...

Low cholesterol linked with worse survival in patients with kidney cancer

June 12, 2014
People are often told to reduce their cholesterol to improve their heart health, but new research suggests that low cholesterol may increase kidney cancer patients' risk of dying from their disease. The findings, which are ...

Recommended for you

Study shows probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants

August 17, 2017
A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at ...

Children who sleep an hour less at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

August 15, 2017
A study has found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

Low blood sugars in newborns linked to later difficulties

August 8, 2017
A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that shows up by age 4.5 years.

Can breast milk feed a love of vegetables?

August 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Want your preschooler to eat veggies without a fuss? Try eating veggies while you're breast-feeding.

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.