A new study found that one in three children with dangerously high cholesterol is missed by current screening recommendations.
For children ages 2-19, a normal level of LDL cholesterol is under 130 mg/dL.
To identify which children to screen, pediatricians generally rely on identifying parents or grandparents who have very high cholesterol and/or heart disease. However, those guidelines developed in the 1990s, when about 25 percent of kids qualified for screening, may not be good enough anymore.
William Neal, MD, professor of pediatrics at West Virginia University, Morgantown, and his colleagues decided to give blood cholesterol tests to every fifth grader in West Virginia.
“Surprisingly, more than 70% of the 20,266 kids who were screened would have qualified for routine cholesterol screening, according to current National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) guidelines. But even more surprising was how many kids had high cholesterol even though they would not have qualified for routine screening.”
” ‘Just as many kids who would not have been screened ended up with severely high cholesterol levels as in the group that did qualify for screening based on family history,’ Neal says.”
Neal says pediatricians should be testing all kids for high cholesterol.
“But American Heart Association President Ralph Sacco, MD, chair of neurology at the University of Miami, isn’t so sure.
” ‘This study does call into question whether family history is a good enough indicator for screening, but whether to jump to universal screening is another question,’ Sacco tells WebMD. ‘The rising epidemic of diabetes means we need to focus on diet, weight control, and physical activity. Putting the emphasis on this for fifth graders would be of utmost importance.’ “
Sacco says he would prefer to see more childhood screenings of waist circumference and an emphasis on controlling weight and exercise.
Have your kids ever been tested for high cholesterol? Did they have it? Do you have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease? Do you think your kids should be tested?