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Cholesterol and Children (cont.)

Screening Children for High Cholesterol

Most parents never know their children's cholesterol levels. Some should. In November 2011 an expert panel recommended that all children (regardless of risk factors) should have fasting cholesterol screening between ages 9 and 11, and again between 18 and 21 years of age. This new guideline is designed to diagnose those children at risk for consequences of elevated cholesterol at an earlier age than previously would have been done. With more adults and children being obese, the likelihood that high cholesterol values will be discovered is to be expected. Hopefully early intervention to a healthier lifestyle will help correct such elevated cholesterol levels. Some critics are less enthusiastic regarding these new guidelines. They counter that there is no absolute evidence that treatment of elevated cholesterol in childhood will have a long-term impact on adult health. They also point out that use of lipid lowering drugs in childhood is controversial. However, at a minimum, children meeting the following criteria are at risk and should be screened for high cholesterol:

  • If a parent or grandparent had a stroke or coronary heart disease when aged 55 years or younger
  • If a parent has a blood cholesterol level 240 mg/dL or above (About 90% of children with high cholesterol have a parent who also has high cholesterol.)
  • If lipid abnormalities are in the family history
  • If a child has a medical condition that predisposes to coronary heart disease, such as severe obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, renal disease, and low thyroid activity
  • If family history is unknown

Three factors are linked to cholesterol levels, and all are related to family issues:

  • Heredity: whether the child inherited a tendency to have high blood cholesterol
  • Diet: whether the child is eating a diet high in fat that leads to high blood cholesterol and heart risk
  • Obesity: whether the child is seriously overweight and at risk for coronary heart disease and diabetes

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Cholesterol And Children - Symptoms

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