To prevent cardiovascular disease, adults are told to get their cholesterol under control, but children (and their parents) may have also taken the message to heart. The average total cholesterol level for U.S. youths dropped nine points in less than two decades (from 164 mg/dL to 155 mg/dL), according to research published in JAMA.
Based on data from a nationally representative group of 26,047 youths ages 6 to 19, the report found that levels of “bad” cholesterol — low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — fell, while levels of the “good” type — high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — rose, results described by the researchers as favorable and potentially good for young people’s future cardiovascular health.
The human body needs cholesterol to build cells, but the liver generally produces all that’s needed, and excess cholesterol (generally from foods) can cause problems. It can build up on the interior walls of blood vessels, causing them to narrow and possibly blocking blood flow to the heart.