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High Cholesterol in Children

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


High Cholesterol in Children

(Hypercholesterolemia in Children)


High cholesterol is a higher than normal level of cholesterol in the blood. It is more common in adults but can happen in children.

There are two types of cholesterol. One is high density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol. High levels of HDL have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. The second type is called low density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to blockages in the blood vessels. High levels of cholesterol can lead problems such as heart attacks and strokes in adulthood.

Heart Attack.

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Causes of high cholesterol in children may be:

  • Genetics
  • Being overweight or obese
  • A diet that is high in fat and cholesterol
  • Low activity levels

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of high cholesterol in children are:

  • Obesity
  • Having a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or stroke
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having certain health problems, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and underactive thyroid
  • Some medicines, such as steroids, isotretinoin (an acne medicine), beta-blockers, protease inhibitors, diuretics, and cyclosporin


High cholesterol in children does not usually cause any symptoms.


High cholesterol in children is often found after a screening test. Screening is done by testing the lipid (fat) levels in the blood when a child is not fasting. More than one test may be done.

The doctor will also ask about the child's symptoms and past. A physical exam will be done.


The goal of treatment is to reach and stay at a healthy cholesterol level. This will lower the risk of future health problems.

Choices are:

  • Eating a healthful diet that is low in fat and cholesterol
  • Reaching and staying at a healthy weight
  • Getting regular physical activity

Children with very high cholesterol and those who are at risk for heart disease may be given cholesterol lowering medicine, such as statins.


The risk of high cholesterol in children may be lowered by:

  • Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, veggies, and whole grains
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting regular physical activity




  • Cholesterol levels in children and adolescents. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Cholesterol-Levels-in-Children-and-Adolescents.aspx.
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/familial-hypercholesterolemia-in-children.
  • NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nhlbi-integrated-guidelines-for-pediatric-cardiovascular-risk-reduction-22.
  • School nutrition. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/schoolnutrition.htm.


  • Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.