Cholesterol Tests Could Protect Kids' Future Health

(CBS)

(CBS)

(WIBW) Add cholesterol screening to the checkup list for the kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently endorsed a recommendation from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that all children ages nine to 11 have their cholesterol checked.

It's raised a lot of eyebrows - including those of Dr. Casey Cordts at Topeka's PediatricCare.

He says it initially came as a surprise to hear support in being so aggressive as to test all children. However, he says growing childhood obesity rates and new research give the guideline merit.

Cordts says it's long been known that obesity itself is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. New research shows that those risk factors are set up in childhood. Cordts says there are even some autopsy studies that show hardening of the arteries in children as young as 10.

In the past, cholesterol levels in children were checked based on risk factors, such as obesity or family history. But even thin, active kids who eat their veggies can have cholesterol trouble, and studies showed 30 to 60 percent of kids with lipid disorders were missed when only targeted testing was done.

Cordts says identifying children with lipid disorders early can make a big impact. He says it allows doctors and families to work on lifestyle and dietary modifications to decrease the risks high cholesterol can pose.

Critics say universal cholesterol testing for kids is an unnecessary expense and that it will only put more kids on cholesterol-lowering drugs they say aren't proven to prevent future heart disease and could have harmful side effects. But one study done in West Virginia found only about one percent will be candidates for drug treatment.

Cordts says having the results of a cholesterol screening can give him another tool to convince parents and kids to take action. He says it would no longer be just him saying a child is at risk for heart disease, he also would have a solid number to show as a defined risk factor.

The panel's guidelines didn't just advocate cholesterol tests. They also recommend 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise; that babies be breast fed at least six months; children can have low-fat milk at age one; and they allow for fat-free milk after age two.


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