High cholesterol doesn't just affect adults. Credit: Getty Images
Does your teen have high cholesterol? Before you say, "Of course not," consider this: A national survey of blood-cholesterol levels in U.S. teenagers found that more than 20 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds had at least one abnormal blood fat level
. And that number jumped to 43 percent among adolescents who are considered obese.
Once thought to be a condition isolated to the middle-aged and elderly, doctors now realize high cholesterol is a problem among the young, as well. Worried experts point out that this is just another health threat posed by the nation's growing level of obesity -- others include high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and more.
"The current epidemic of childhood obesity makes this a matter of significant and urgent concern," says Ashleigh May, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division for heart disease and stroke prevention, who led the analysis.
The findings give extra support to 2008 guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommend more aggressive cholesterol testing
and intervention in kids, particularly the overweight and obese. These guides created controversy because they suggested testing children as young as 2 and treatment for children as young as 8 (previous guides said children should be older than 10 before medication was considered.)
Obesity among American youths has increased from 5 percent to more than 17 percent in the last three decades. With that in mind, the study's authors suggest clinicians be aware of these new guidelines.
And parents should be, too.
Related: High Cholesterol and Coronary Artery Disease