Can Young Adults Have High Cholesterol?

Think about the last time you saw a TV commercial for a cholesterol-lowering drug. Was the person in the ad a baby boomer (or older)? Most likely the answer is yes. High cholesterol is most often associated with older adults.

Still, that doesn’t mean younger people can’t also experience HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol levels outside the healthy range. For a variety of reasons — including genetic factors, diet, and body weight — people as young as their teens and twenties can be in this position.

Finding out at a young age that you have high cholesterol can be disturbing. But you are not without options for treatment and prevention.

Read on for what you need to know about living with hyperlipidemia (also known as high cholesterol) as a young person.

In general, middle-aged or elderly people are more likely to have high cholesterol than younger people. That said, high cholesterol is not a condition that only affects older people.

Although less common, it is very possible for people to have hyperlipidemia (also called hypercholesterolemia) in their younger years. Even young children can sometimes have this problem.

If you have high cholesterol as a young person, it’s important to be proactive about managing your condition. High blood lipids at any age increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

And, according to a 2020 study, the younger you have high cholesterol, the greater your risk of cardiovascular disease throughout your life.

Researchers in this study found that arterial damage from elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol appears to be cumulative — making it all the more important to stay on top of treatment earlier in life.

High cholesterol in younger adults is more common than you might expect.

Researchers found in a recent study that 26.3 million American young adults (18 to 39 years old) had high or high LDL (bad) cholesterol by 2021. That is 27% of the population at that age.

Hyperlipidemia generally has no symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people 20 and older with a low risk of cardiovascular disease be tested every 5 years.

People with risk factors (such as obesity or a family history of heart attacks) are advised to have their cholesterol checked more often.

Here’s a quick guide to cholesterol levels by age, according to: Guidelines for 2018 from various national expert panels. (Note: Since HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind, larger amounts of it are generally better.)

Sometimes having high cholesterol as a youngster is just luck of the genetic draw. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an inherited condition that causes the body to abnormally recycle LDL cholesterol.

According to the American Heart Association, 1 in about 200 adults have this genetic mutation (although only about 10% are aware of it). If left untreated, FH typically progresses to coronary artery disease.

For some young adults, other health and lifestyle factors play a major role in causing high cholesterol, such as:

  • obesity
  • to smoke
  • certain drugs
  • sedentary lifestyle

A diet high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars (and low in fiber) can: mainly increases your risk.

Having diabetes can also affect your numbers. A condition known as diabetic dyslipidemia can both raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol.

Young adults have several options for treating high cholesterol. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, talk to a doctor about the best ways to treat this condition.

Some strategies a doctor may recommend include:

  • maintain a moderate weight
  • eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars
  • eating a diet high in fiber and antioxidants
  • do not smoke
  • reduce alcohol consumption
  • taking statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • increase physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day
  • add natural supplements to your medication regimen

A diagnosis of high cholesterol in your teens, 20s, or 30s can be worrisome, but it’s treatable. With the right medication protocol, lifestyle modification, or both, you may be able to move your numbers to a healthier range.

Can Young Adults Have High Cholesterol?

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