Should my child be tested for high cholesterol? And if so, when?

Should my child be tested for high cholesterol? And if so, when?

Question:
Ellen Rome, M.D.
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Ellen Rome, M.D.

Dr. Ellen Rome is a board-certified pediatrician who was among the first in the U.S. to be board certified in adolescent medicine. She... Read more

Children with a strong family history of high cholesterol or early cardiac disease (mother or father diagnosed before age 40) should have their cholesterol level checked once before age 10. Children without these factors can be screened once in their teen years.

 

If the total cholesterol level for any child is 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or higher, a fasting lipid panel should be done: Your child fasts after midnight and has her blood drawn the next morning to test her total cholesterol; her high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level, known as “good cholesterol”; and her low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level, known as “bad cholesterol.” Red flags include bad cholesterol that is 130 mg/dl or higher or good cholesterol that is 40 mg/dl or lower.

 

In either instance, and/or if the total cholesterol level is still higher than 180 mg/dl after fasting, it is worth following up several times a year with your pediatrician, and monthly with a dietitian, in order to help make lasting food changes to lower LDL and total cholesterol. Hardening of the arteries due to high cholesterol begins at a young age. Taking steps right now to lower cholesterol will reduce your child’s future risk of heart disease. (See next question for tips on how to lower cholesterol.)

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