Image for childrens iron supplements High cholesterol is a health problem we often associate with adults, but children can also be affected. High cholesterol levels, along with other factors that put adults at risk for heart problems ( high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of physical activity, and being overweight or obese), also put children at risk later in life.

For instance, high cholesterol levels play a role in forming fatty plaque build-up in arteries, causing the arteries to harden. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, can start in childhood. If not addressed, it can lead to coronary artery disease in adulthood.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that all children have a cholesterol screening when they are between the ages of nine and 11 years old. However, if high cholesterol levels run in your family or if your child has certain risk factors, he or she may need cholesterol screening before then. Discuss this with your child's doctor. All children should be checked again between the ages of 17-21 years.

There are two types of cholesterol often discussed: “good” cholesterol, also known as HDL cholesterol, and “bad” cholesterol, also called LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the main culprit of heart problems, so keeping levels low is important. For children, this means making sure that their LDL cholesterol level is less than 110 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Here are cholesterol level guidelines from NHLBI:

LDL Cholesterol Levels in Children and Teens 2-19 Years Old
Acceptable less than 110 mg/dL
Borderline 110-129 mg/dL
High 130 mg/dL or greater
Total Cholesterol Levels in Children and Teens 2-19 Years Old
Acceptable less than 170 mg/dL
Borderline 170-199 mg/dL
High 200 mg/dL or greater