Purpose of review
Adolescence is a common time for the identification of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including elevated cholesterol. Guidelines for the detection and treatment of hypercholesterolemia differ for children and adults. This review highlights these differences and discusses special considerations for cholesterol management in the adolescent population.
Several longitudinal studies have confirmed that the number of cardiovascular risk factors present in adolescence, including elevated cholesterol, lead to atherosclerosis in adults. There is increased awareness that other chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, congenital heart disease, inflammatory diseases, and childhood cancer, can accelerate this process. There is a move to screen and treat more young patients with elevated cholesterol to prevent future cardiovascular disease. New markers of atherosclerosis are being used to quantify cardiovascular disease risk in adolescents in research populations. The safety and efficacy of several interventions, including drug therapy, is increasingly established.
Comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment is important for adolescent health and includes assessment of family history and tobacco use along with measurement of body mass index and blood pressure. Additionally, cholesterol screening is recommended for overweight adolescents or those with an unknown family history and for all patients by the age of 20. Providers caring for adolescents should be familiar with both the pediatric and adult cholesterol screening and treatment guidelines as well as how common adolescent conditions affect cholesterol levels.