Cholesterol levels among U.S. kids improved; but only half have ideal numbers

The improvement in cholesterol levels among children and teens in the United States still leaves a half empty glass. There have been hopeful changes, but still 50% of Americans ages 6 to 19 have less than ideal cholesterol levels; and as many as 25% of them are in the clinically high range.

Researchers funded by NHLBI reported these findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study examined a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 youths during the period between 1999 and 2016; and found that there were favorable trends in the lipid levels of U.S. youths through 2010.

“High cholesterol in childhood is one of the key risk factors for developing heart disease later in life,” says NHLBI funded study author Marma Perak, M.D., from Lurie Children's. “Although we see favorable trends in all measures of cholesterol in children and adolescents over the years, we still need to work harder to ensure that many more kids have healthy cholesterol levels. We know that high cholesterol is the critical initiator of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, and even in childhood it is associated with these changes in the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack in adulthood.”