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1 in 5 Teens Has Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels

Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels Among Teens Raises Heart Risks
By
WebMD Health News

Jan. 21, 2010 -- One in five American teens has unhealthy cholesterol levels, putting them on the fast track for heart disease, according to a new CDC report.

Researchers found that 20% of young people aged 12-19 in the U.S. have at least one abnormal cholesterol or lipid level, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Unhealthy lipid levels are a leading risk factor for heart disease and death among adults in the U.S.

"Overweight and obese young people are at far greater risk of having abnormal lipid levels than are youths with normal weights," researcher Ashleigh May, PhD, an epidemic intelligence service officer in CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, says in a news release. "The current epidemic of childhood obesity makes this a matter of significant and urgent concern."

The study showed 43% of obese teens had unhealthy cholesterol levels compared with only 14% of normal-weight teens and 22% of overweight teens.

Child Cholesterol Check

In the study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers reviewed health indicators for 3,125 young people between the ages of 12 and 19 from 1999 to 2006 gathered during an ongoing national survey.

The results showed 20% of teens had at least one abnormal lipid level based on cutoff points for high LDL cholesterol (greater than or equal to 130 mg/dL), low HDL cholesterol (less than or equal to 35 mg/dL), and high triglyceride levels (greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL).

Differences were strongly associated with weight as well as sex, age, and race or ethnicity. For example:

  • More boys than girls had at least one unhealthy lipid level (24% vs. 16%).
  • Older teens were more likely to have lower "good" HDL cholesterol levels than 12- and 13-year-olds.
  • White teens were more likely to have low "good" cholesterol levels (8%) and high triglycerides (12%) than black teens (5% and 4%, respectively.)

Thirty-two percent of all youths met screening guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) based solely on their weight. The AAP recommends cholesterol screening for young people with a family history of high cholesterol, early heart disease, or at least one major risk factor for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, or overweight/obesity. Fifteen percent of the youths were overweight and 17% were obese based on BMI.

Researchers say screening teens for unhealthy cholesterol and lipid levels would help identify those at greatest risk for heart disease that would benefit from measures to reduce that risk, such as eating a healthier diet, losing weight, or increasing physical activity.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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