U.S. Teens Get Poor Cholesterol Grades

Posted 01/20/2016 | By HealthCorps

One in five U.S. kids and teens has at least one abnormal cholesterol reading, according to new data from the CDC. That means either their total cholesterol level and/or LDL is too high, or their good cholesterol or HDL is too low. Cholesterol abnormalities are associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The data showed that about 21% of kids and teens ages 6-19 had either a high total cholesterol, low HDL or high non-HDL cholesterol (meaning that the good cholesterol was not contributing to the higher number). The older teens actually skewed to 26.9% with too high total cholesterol levels. Genetic predispositions like familial hypercholesterolemia may partly explain these findings.

Obesity was also found as a potential risk factor for cholesterol abnormalities. Nearly half kids and teens diagnosed with obesity have some form of abnormal cholesterol. Children and teens diagnosed with obesity have an 11.6% rate of abnormal cholesterol levels, compared to normal weight and overweight kids and teens with a rate of 6.9% abnormalities in total cholesterol.

When it comes to the good cholesterol or HDL levels, there is a much bigger differential. About 33.2% of the children with obesity, in the data collected, had an abnormally low HDL level versus a rate of 6.3% in the “normal weight and overweight kids” combined group. Researchers believe the abnormally low HDL levels are directly related to how the obesity impacts their body chemistry. These researchers identify obesity as a cause of higher triglycerides and lower HDL levels.

Diet and physical activity are two key ingredients to help kids diagnosed with obesity improve their cholesterol, especially HDL, and triglyceride levels.

When it comes to gender differences in the CDC findings, girls had higher overall rates of abnormal and high total cholesterol levels compared to boys, however, girls had better HDL levels. New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) recommend monitoring cholesterol levels for all children, including those ages 9-11. These guidelines are especially important given the rates of obesity in the U.S. and because certain cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors such as abnormal cholesterol patterns begin in childhood.

Finding cholesterol abnormalities early can help to fuel public health interventions so kids reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

Programs like HealthCorps and HealthCorps University (HCU) are committed to helping teens manage their weight and their health through classroom education. Nutrition, fitness, and mental strength lessons and support are key components of the HealthCorps curriculum. HealthCorps’ goal is to intercept teen obesity and reduce rates of chronic diseases associated with obesity.

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