Cholesterol test for children? Many doctors say yes

Posted by: admin on: January 13, 2012

It’s a medical rite that a lot of middle-aged adults dread: the cholesterol test that sends them scrambling to figure out what all those numbers mean. Now experts are recommending that children have cholesterol screening added to their to-do list as well.


  • Dr Hugh McPhee, medical director of the largest pediatric group in the region, recommended that children as young as 9 be screened for high cholesterol levels, mirroring guidelines released last week by the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Previously, the screening was recommended only for children in families with a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, or those whose weight indicated a need for the blood tests.
  • It’s now recommended for all those between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between the ages of 17 and 21.
  • Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood that is linked to heart disease.
  • We’re trying to reduce the disease burden these children will have later in life, McPhee said as it’s become a concern as children are carrying more weight.
  • He said studies show pediatricians were probably missing 50 percent of children whose cholesterol is too high using the old guidelines.
  • It’s one of those insidious problems, McPhee said.
  • The screening will bring it to the fore in the parents’ minds and show that being overweight is more than an esthetical problem.
  • It also will identify children who may have high cholesterol levels but not appear overweight, and give doctors hard data to better educate children and their parents.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity now affects 17 percent of children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from one generation ago.
  • McPhee said most children who test high would be advised to make changes to their diets and increase exercise rather than take medications.
  • Heart disease is rare in children, but risk factors present in childhood can increase the likelihood of developing it as an adult.
  • Doctors will be able to use a cholesterol test that does not require patients to fast, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Those with abnormal results would then receive a test that does require fasting.
  • McPhee said that some insurance companies won’t pay for the lab fees for the blood work, but he said he’s hopeful that the new recommendations will lead to a change in that.
  • According to the AAP, less than 1 percent of children would qualify for cholesterol-lowering medications.
  • Most children with high cholesterol would be advised to make changes to their diet and increase physical activity.
  • The new guidelines also suggest parents make healthy choices for their children, such as breast-feeding, a diet low in saturated fat beginning at age 1, regular physical activity and protecting children from tobacco smoke.

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