PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When you think of high cholesterol, your first thought isn’t usually children.

“I think they’re on the lower end of the cholesterol range,” says one mom walking on the North Side.

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“With the French fries and the chicken nuggets and all that, I’m sure it’s not low,” says another mom walking by.

“I just try not to eat too much of them,” says a 9-year-old boy.

Based on a review of nearly 13,000 charts at a pediatric hospital in Texas, new numbers show one in three American children between ages 9 and 11 has high cholesterol.

“It’s really a wakeup call for everyone that cholesterol is important in children as well as in adults,” says AGH med peds physician Dr. Jennifer Priess.

Levels are considered unhealthy if total cholesterol is higher than 240, bad cholesterol higher than 130, and good cholesterol lower than 40.

When children die for other reasons, there are signs high levels have already done damage.

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“They do autopsies on these children, and they find cholesterol streaking in their blood vessels already,” says Dr. Priess.

Boys were more likely to have high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, another fat found in the blood.

Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol.

“The first line of therapy for anyone, but especially for children, is not medication. It’s really about lifestyle, and eating habits, and dietary changes,” says Dr. Priess.

Government guidelines encourage screening for this age group, and again at age 17 to 21. But blood work in youth is not frequently done.

“Unless you are drawing blood for other reasons, you’re not actively screening cholesterol as you do for adults on a routine basis,” she points out.

The study has not yet been peer-reviewed and published. It will be presented at an upcoming cardiology meeting.

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