2 Your Health: Screening for Cholesterol in Children

Recent study shows one in five U.S. children have high cholesterol

Childhood obesity has doubled in the United States in the past 30 years.

Evidence has shown that childhood obesity often leads to increases in heart disease risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Such findings have prompted both the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend cholesterol screening in children as young as 9 years old.

When to start cholesterol screening

According to Dr. Michael Rocco, M.D. of Cleveland Clinic's Heart & Vascular Institute, screening in younger children can be beneficial.

"Cholesterol levels tend to drop in pre-puberty and early puberty," said Dr. Rocco. "So earlier measurements may actually give you a better assessment of what those cholesterol levels may be like as an adult."

Dr. Rocco said that some recommendations even call for screening in children as young as 2 years old in cases where one or more parents are being treated for high cholesterol or premature cardiovascular disease.

High cholesterol and future health

A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that one in five U.S. children have unhealthy cholesterol levels, with obese children carrying the highest risk.

"It may be a bigger problem than we previously recognized, which may be another reason to push toward more universal or early screening to help identify these children," said Dr. Rocco.

Dr. Rocco said catching high cholesterol early enough in children may enable doctors to recommend lifestyle changes that can prevent them from having to battle high cholesterol issues as adults.

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