Should Children Undergo Regular Cholesterol Screenings?

iStock_000008235598LargeIt’s not uncommon for adults to be concerned about cholesterol. In fact, many adults get their cholesterol levels screened each year as part of routine annual exams with their physicians. When high cholesterol is detected, adults are usually told to change their diet and/or to take medication in an attempt to lower their cholesterol levels.

This is how the American Heart Association describes cholesterol and how it’s detected: “Cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood. It has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. These two types of lipids, along with triglycerides and Lp(a) cholesterol, make up your total cholesterol count, which can be determined through a blood test.”

Despite the fact that most adults are aware of the importance of maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, they rarely spend time thinking about the potential dangers for their children that are associated with unhealthy cholesterol levels. In the past, most pediatricians did not discuss cholesterol with parents at their children’s annual “well visit” exams. But in 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (“AAP”) endorsed a new set of guidelines that promote checking LDL cholesterol levels in children ages 9 to 11. The guidelines discuss the following facts:

  • While cardiovascular disease is rare in children, risk factors present in childhood can increase the likelihood a child will develop heart disease as an adult.
  • New guidelines will give health care providers an integrated road map to address all the major cardiovascular risk factors as part of children’s annual well visits.
  • The new guidelines recommend ways to prevent the development of cardiovascular risk factors and to optimize cardiovascular health starting with breast feeding and by the age of one year, following a diet low in saturated fat.
  • Universal screening will more accurately identify children who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease and will emphasize the importance of follow-up by their pediatricians.
  • Most children with high cholesterol would be encouraged to practice lifestyle modifications, including a low-fat diet and sufficient physical activity. For children with high blood pressure, the DASH diet is recommended.

What is All of This Really About?
The purpose of the guidelines endorsed by the AAP are not to scare either parents or children. Rather, the guidelines are intended to encourage parents (and teach children) to eat healthy food, to avoid over-indulging at restaurants, to understand the difference between healthy and non-healthy food choices, to get adequate exercise, and to learn how to live an overall healthy lifestyle.

The EveryHeart Foundation
The Boone Heart Institute is the EveryHeart Foundation’s primary medical partner. The mission of the EveryHeart Foundation is to reduce cardiovascular disease in young Americans through advanced diagnostic testing, comprehensive education, and ground-breaking research. One of the main goals of the EveryHeart foundation is to promote early detection of cardiovascular disease as well as to raise awareness and to provide insight into this ever-growing problem that plagues today’s youth. Support the EveryHeart Foundation by making a donation today!

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