How should high cholesterol in children be treated?

Answers from Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D.

Treatment of high cholesterol in children is controversial. Many doctors think that diet and exercise are the best initial treatment for children age 2 and older who have high cholesterol or who are obese.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends treating high cholesterol in children with prescription drugs, such as statins, for children age 8 and older if a child has a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol. This is because some researchers think that heart disease in adulthood can begin to develop early in a child's life if his or her cholesterol level is too high.

However, many doctors disagree that cholesterol-lowering drugs are an appropriate treatment, since little research has been done on the safety and effectiveness of these drugs in children. Some doctors also think few children have a cholesterol level high enough to require cholesterol-lowering drugs as treatment.

The long-term effects of using cholesterol-lowering drugs to treat high cholesterol in children haven't been studied much. In addition, certain cholesterol medications, such as niacin, aren't recommended for children because of safety concerns.

Because of disagreement in the medical community about treating high cholesterol in children, talk to your child's doctor about what's best for your child, including exercise and heart-healthy diet options.

Oct. 26, 2011 See more Expert Answers