Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Treating High Cholesterol Levels (for Teenagers)
THE IMPORTANCE OF TREATMENT
If your cholesterol level is high or borderline high, start
this treatment program. If your cholesterol level is
normal, it is still a good idea for your whole family to
follow these recommendations.
High cholesterol is not the only risk factor for coronary
heart disease. Other risk factors are just as harmful:
physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. The more risk
factors that you have, the higher the risk of heart disease.
Living a long and healthy life requires healthy eating and
regular exercise. It is easier to start these habits as a
teenager than to have to adopt them as an adult. If you
follow most of these recommendations, you are protecting
your heart and blood vessels.
- Low-fat diet
The American Heart Association recommends a
low-cholesterol, low saturated-fat diet for everyone
over age 2 years.
Eating foods that contain cholesterol raises our blood
cholesterol levels. Foods that come from plants, such
as fruits, vegetables, and grains, do not contain
cholesterol. Foods that come from animals, such as
meats, eggs, and milk products, do contain cholesterol.
Eating saturated fats also raises blood cholesterol
levels because fat causes our bodies to make more
cholesterol. Even if we don't eat any fat, the liver
produces a small amount of cholesterol each day.
Therefore, we will always have some cholesterol in our
Currently, most Americans get 40 percent of their daily
calories from fat. However, in a healthy diet no more
than 30 percent of the total calories should come from
fat. The goal is to eat fat in moderation. You do not
have to eliminate fat from your diet entirely. Lower
the amount of fat you eat so that fat provides no more
than 30 percent of your daily calories.
Eating a low-fat diet will help lower your cholesterol
level and is rather easy:
- Eat more fish, turkey, and chicken because these
meats have less fat than red meats. Buy lean ground
beef or ground turkey for hamburgers. Use lean ham
or turkey for sandwiches.
- Trim the fat from meat and remove the skin from
poultry before you eat it.
- Avoid the meats with the highest fat content, such as
bacon, sausages, salami, pepperoni, and hot dogs.
- Limit the number of eggs you eat to 3 or 4 eggs a
- Limit all meats to moderately sized portions.
- Use 1-percent or skim (0.5 percent) milk instead of
whole milk (which is 3.5 percent fat).
- Use soft margarine products and vegetable oils
instead of butter.
- Avoid any food fried in butter or fat. If you prefer
fried meats, use margarine or nonstick cooking
- Increase the amount of fiber you eat. Most grains,
vegetables, and fruits are good sources of fiber.
- Family exercise program
Exercise is the best way to raise the level of HDL (the
"good" cholesterol) in your blood. Your goal should be
20 to 30 minutes of vigorous (aerobic) exercise three
times each week. For exercise to be vigorous it must
involve the large muscles of the legs and cause your
heart to beat faster. Vigorous exercise also improves
your heart's response to work.
Try the following forms of exercise:
- Walk or bike instead of riding in a car.
- Use stairs instead of elevators.
- Join a team or learn a new sport (for example, roller
skating) that requires vigorous exercise. Swimming
and jogging are sports that burn lots of calories.
Some sports, such as baseball and football, don't
exercise the heart.
- Exercise to a video tape or music on TV.
- Use an exercise bike, dance, or run in place while
you watch TV.
- Limit your TV time to 2 hours or less a day. Sitting
activities interfere with physical fitness.
- Ideal body weight
People who are overweight tend to have a low HDL and a
high LDL, which is the opposite of what is good for
them. Achieving an ideal body weight will improve your
blood cholesterol levels.
Fat has twice as much calories as the same amount of
protein or carbohydrates. When a person eats less fat
each day, he automatically gets less calories from his
food each day. A low-fat diet AND exercise are the key
ingredients for losing weight.
If you are overweight, see also topic:
Overweight: A Weight Reduction Program
If you are a smoker, a good way to raise your HDL level
is to stop smoking.
- Additional help
If your level of cholesterol remains high even though
you follow these treatment recommendations, ask for a
consultation with a nutritionist about special diets.
Also, join an exercise program at a local gym or fitness
center. These additional steps will usually help you.
Medications are sometimes prescribed for adults to help
lower their cholesterol levels. However, they are
rarely prescribed for teenagers unless you have a rare
form of high cholesterol related to disease rather than
RECHECKING YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVEL
Generally, if you have high cholesterol (above the 95th
percentile), your cholesterol level is checked again about 2
to 4 months after you start a program to lower it. If the
cholesterol level is borderline high (above the 75th
percentile), it is usually checked yearly.