1 in 5 Teens Has Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels

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
, 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.

  • 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

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 .

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario
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