You probably know that you need to get your blood lipids, or cholesterol, checked regularly as a way to understand your risk for cardiovascular disease. But you might wonder why your 10 year old needs to have her cholesterol checked. With increasing rates of diabetes, obesity and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, monitoring blood lipid levels is one way we can help to keep your child healthy.
Current guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that children aged 9 to 11 years of age and young adults 17 to 21 years of age be screened for high cholesterol, regardless of risk factors.
In fact, if your child has elevated lipids in a previous test or risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may want to test their cholesterol levels earlier or more frequently.
Risk factors include:
- Parent with high cholesterol
- Family history of early cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
- Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
- Kidney disease
- Heart transplant
- Kawasaki disease
- Chronic inflammatory disease
- Nephrotic syndrome
Nonfasting and fasting lipid panels are used to measure the amount of LDL, HDL and total cholesterol in the blood. Nonfasting panels are typically used for routine screening because the patient does not have to do any preparation for the test. However, if the nonfasting panel is abnormal or borderline, a fasting lipid panel should be done for confirmation.
If your child’s cholesterol levels are high or borderline, you are encouraged to work with your doctor to manage them through diet and exercise modifications. However, if diet and exercise do not help, or levels are extremely high, your child should see a pediatric cardiologist.
At The Heart Center, we will see any patient with abnormal fasting lab results. If non-fasting lab results are abnormal, ask your pediatrician to order a fasting lipid panel before the specialist visit.
Interpreting the Results of Your Child’s Lipids Test
Nonfasting: Non-HDL cholesterol should be less than 145, and HDL should be above 40.
Fasting Lipid Values (in mg/dL) for Children and Adolescents