Cholesterol levels in childhood are the best predictor of high cholesterol levels and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease in adulthood, say researchers from Tulane University Health Science Center in New Orleans and Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
Researchers examined the non-high-density-lipoprotein (non-HDL) levels of 1,163 men and women who participated in a 27-year heart study that began when they were children. Non-HDL cholesterol is the difference between total cholesterol and HDL, or "good" cholesterol. Non-HDL cholesterol includes three types of cholesterol: triglycerides (blood fats); low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol; and intermediate density lipoprotein. Over the course of the study, researchers tracked the participants' cholesterol, along with other factors that contribute to a person's risk of developing heart disease, including blood pressure, weight, insulin levels, and blood sugar levels.
The results? Two thirds of those with the highest non-HDL cholesterol in childhood tended to have high non-HDL levels in adulthood. LDL cholesterol levels also tended to stay high in adulthood if they were high in childhood. In addition, high levels of non-HDL cholesterol in childhood increased the risk of obesity, high triglyceride levels, high insulin levels, and high blood sugar levels in adulthood.
What This Means to You. To help keep kids healthy and reduce the risk of cholesterol problems in adulthood, encourage them to eat a healthy diet that's low in fat, get plenty of physical activity, and maintain a healthy weight. According to the authors of this study, cholesterol screening in childhood may identify kids who are at risk for abnormal cholesterol levels in adulthood. If your child is overweight or your family has a history of high cholesterol or heart disease, talk to your doctor about whether your child's cholesterol should be tested.
Source: Sathanur R. Srinivasan, PhD; Maria G. Frontini, PhD; Jihua Xu, MD; Gerald S. Berenson, MD; Pediatrics, July 2006.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2006