Is it Genetic?

Some children (and adults) have high cholesterol because of their daily habits. This could be from eating too much saturated fat (hamburgers, steak, pizza, cheese or ice cream), being overweight or obese or not exercising enough.

Sometimes a fantastic diet and lots of exercise aren’t enough to get cholesterol levels in a healthy range. This can be a genetic problem known as Familial Hypercholesterolemia, or FH.

The best-known genetic problems in FH are those that affect the LDL receptor. This receptor is in charge of moving “bad” cholesterol out of the blood and into the cells to be used. If the genetic code for the LDL receptors isn’t correct, the receptors can’t adequately remove LDL from the bloodstream, allowing it to build up. These high levels of LDL in the blood can translate into a high risk of heart attack or stroke.


You can learn more at the FH Foundation. Children can be diagnosed with FH if they have high LDL cholesterol – typically 160-190 – that doesn’t respond to making diet changes. A normal LDL for children is 100 or under. FH is also more likely if the child has a primary relative (a parent, sibling, aunt or uncle) with early heart disease.  

There are a lot of great ways to address high cholesterol before considering medications. Be sure to ask your doctor for specific recommendations or to connect you to a cholesterol specialist.

Specific genetic testing for LDL receptor defects isn’t widely used but is available. One company that does genetic testing is Ambry Genetics. Their online resources provide some good information.

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