Compelling evidence shows the atherosclerotic process (buildup of fatty plaque in arteries) begins in childhood and progresses slowly into adulthood. Later in life, it often leads to coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Evidence shows that:
- Atherosclerosis or its precursors begin in young people.
- Elevated cholesterol levels early in life may play a role in the development of adult atherosclerosis.
- Eating patterns and genetics affect blood cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease risk.
- Lowering levels in children and adolescents may be beneficial.
- Cigarette smoking should be discouraged.
- Regular aerobic exercise should be encouraged.
- High blood pressure should be identified and treated.
- Overweight should be avoided or reduced.
- Diabetes should be diagnosed and treated.
- Children ages 2 and older should be encouraged to eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily and a wide variety of other foods low in saturated fat and trans fat.
Cholesterol testing should be considered for the following groups of children and adolescents:
- Those with a parent or grandparent who had evidence of coronary atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease, or cerebrovascular disease; who had a coronary artery procedure; or who suffered a heart attack or sudden cardiac death before age 55.
- Those with a parent who has a history of high total cholesterol levels (240 mg/dL or higher).
Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s cholesterol or overall health.
Find additional information about raising healthy kids.
This content was last reviewed on 04/21/2014.