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Lowering cholesterol in the younger set

By Gina Greene (CNN)

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Cholesterol levels in young people 2 - 19 years old:

Total cholesterol

Acceptable - less than 170
Borderline - 170-199
High - 200+

LDL cholesterol
Acceptable - less than 110
Borderline - 110-129
High - 130+

Source: American Heart Association

DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- These days, high cholesterol and the drugs to control it make for common cocktail party conversations. The same conversations could be moving to playgrounds and gym classes, according to a study in this week's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers found that simvastatin -- one of a class of popular cholesterol-lowering drugs called "statins" -- is a "well tolerated and effective therapy for children with inherited high cholesterol," writes lead author Dr. Saskia de Jongh, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Moreover, the study -- the largest of its kind -- concludes simvastatin was tolerated as well in children as it is in adults and didn't influence growth or puberty.

A total of 173 children from seven countries were studied. There were 98 boys and 75 girls between the ages of 9 and 18 years old. They were given either simvastatin or a placebo for just under a year and doses were gradually increased to 40 milligrams. Eighty milligrams is the maximum dose recommended for adults by the FDA.

Researchers found improvement in all measures of cholesterol:

  • LDL -- or "bad" -- cholesterol decreased 41 percent
  • Total cholesterol dropped 31 percent
  • Triglycerides were reduced by 9 percent
  • According to the American Heart Association, of those with the inherited form of high cholesterol, 50 percent will develop heart disease by age 50 if untreated.

    In addition to genetics, diet also plays a large role in cholesterol levels. However, many people find dietary changes have limited effect on their cholesterol levels.

    Also according to the AHA, more than 143 million Americans suffer from borderline-high to high cholesterol levels, one of the biggest risk factors for the country's biggest killer -- heart disease.

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