Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 21 percent of American children and teenagers have cholesterol problems. Findings showed these children and teens carry increased risks of developing stroke and heart disease as they progress to adulthood.
CDC researchers analyzed nationwide health data from 2011 through 2014 of children and teens in the U.S. They also found over 13 percent have low levels of the "good" cholesterol HDL, which aids in clearing arteries.
The report showed more than 8 percent have very high levels of other cholesterols that can harm the arteries. Over 7 percent of the study participants have harmfully high levels of overall cholesterol.
Obesity played a role in driving up the cholesterol trends, said the federal health agency. In the study, over 43 percent of obese children have irregular cholesterol levels. Among children who have normal weight, less than 14 percent showed irregular cholesterol readings. This trend continues to rise as the participants aged.
"Clearly, the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations to screen all children for cholesterol status, and to take measures to prevent and manage obesity, are more important than ever," said Dr. Michael Pettei from the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York.
Children with high cholesterol levels are advised to take lifestyle changes. These include a healthy diet, increased physical activities such as exercise and sports and weight loss.
Medication is given to children who have other medical conditions associated with high levels of cholesterol. Children who don't see any significant change in cholesterol rate after incorporating lifestyle changes are also advised to take medications.
"Every child should be screened at 9 to 11 years of age and again from 17 to 21 years of age regardless of risk factors," said Dr. Jonathan Wagner from Children's Mercy Hospital.
Approximately 200,000 children across the U.S. are suffering from high cholesterol levels and they require statin medicines (cholesterol-lowering drugs), added Wagner. The effects of these medicines after decade of usage remain unknown. Children's Mercy Hospital is currently doing the research.
The CDC report was published[pdf] as a Data Brief on Dec. 10. It became part of the health agency's National Center for Health Statistics.
Photo: Antonio Thomás Koenigkam Oliveira | Flickr