Should your child be screened for high cholesterol?

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.

From WebMD:

“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.

From WebMD:

“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?

28 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Aitchison. Robert Aitchison said: Should your child be screened for high cholesterol? – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

2:32AM - Holy Schmoly...

July 13th, 2010
6:35 am

…hope all is well at that hour, TWG…


July 13th, 2010
7:13 am

OFF topic. Julia mentioned yesterday that nothing dates you like bad earrings. I was at UGA freshman orientation yesterday and trying to figure out what bad earrings look like. I saw HUGE rings on students ( big enough for a bracelet), studs, dangly ones that would hurt my ear, pearls, posts etc. Are we talking about granny clip ons or little gold hoops…I need clarification here. I simply do not know.
back to Athens….


July 13th, 2010
7:35 am

I think it is important to monitor kids’ cholesterol levels. But unfortunately (IMO), the children that are most likely to experience cholesterol issues won’t be screened. They take their cues from their parents. If the parents are only serving meals that are not healthy, that is what the child will learn. Even in schools now, there are so many unhealthy options for lunch. Neighborhoods where parents embrace more fast food and processed food options instead of fresh food options have more instances of health issues (high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc.). I am sure I will get hammered for that comment, but I believe it is true.


July 13th, 2010
7:44 am

Andrea, I completely agree with you. However, there are some families (like mine) who are healthy and active and high cholesterol is hereditary. I run marathons, eat healthy and watch my weight and I’ve been on meds for high cholesterol for about 10 years (I am in my late 30s, BTW). Without my meds, my cholesterol is in the high 300s. Diet and exercise just don’t control it for me. My body just makes a lot of it and I inherited that from my mother’s side of the family. My pediatrician has suggested that as my 5 year old gets older, I have her screened so that we can monitor it.


July 13th, 2010
8:05 am

If you are one of those parents who has a nice, plump pork chop video game playing couch potato child with boy boobs and breast sweat, sure – test Little Johnny. If your child is active and isn’t fat as a hog, don’t worry about it!


July 13th, 2010
8:18 am

Does anyone know what is the treatment plan for repeated high numbers in children? Pediatrician? Nutritionist?


July 13th, 2010
8:25 am

@Kathy: I do agree that there are people who have predispositions (I think that’s what it is called) for certain health issues. I was speaking more to those that could possibly do something about their health situation. I have a cousin who changed her lifestyle and has made a complete turnaround. Both parents had hypertension and diabetes. She decided she didn’t want to got hrough what she watched her parents go through and decided to make a lifestyle change through diet and exercise. She did it too. Unfortunately, both parents still are still on medications but she can be a better example for her kids. Good luck to you with keeping your cholesterol in check!

I really find it...

July 13th, 2010
9:13 am

…rude for people on this blog to comment when they have nothing to offer to the topic at hand. It is really disrespectful to those of us who try to stay “on topic”, while those others try to disengage us with their own agendas. But, I guess Theresa will tell us when we cannot change topics, and, so far, she has not done so..


July 13th, 2010
9:23 am

My children are checked every couple of years at their pediatrician’s office & so far none of them have any problems w/ cholesterol. My youngest child will probably be the one to have issues though. She is the only one biologically my husband’s and he has a family history of cholesterol problems. It doesn’t just run, it gallops in his family. He’s had 2 uncles get bypass surgery in their 30’s & he had a triple bypass, after a heart attack of course, 2 years ago. He’s not overweight by any means and fairly young (early 40’s.) He didn’t monitor his cholesterol level until all that fun happened but he does now. We’ll continue to have all the kids checked but I don’t foresee any having problems, except maybe the youngest, & hopefully they’ll get my genetics for that. :)


July 13th, 2010
9:26 am

My son is 15 and for the first time that I can recall at his annual physical a few weeks ago, the pediatrician asked if his father or I have high cholesterol or if it runs in our family. It does not and he’s thin so he did not recommend having him tested but it’s obviously something that has been brought to his attention.


July 13th, 2010
9:44 am

Thanks for the heads up! I haven’t thought about having my children checked for this. My oldest is a Marine so I’m sure he’s been checked for everything possible but my youngest is nine and I will definitely ask his doctor at his next visit. High cholesterol runs in my family (mom and grandmother) and HBP “gallops” (as someone said before) in my husband’s family.


July 13th, 2010
10:16 am

I had never even thought of this as mine is still really little, but def. something to consider for the future. I know this doesn’t run or gallop in my family, but I will have to ask the hubby!

And sorry off topic, but I just noticed the 2nd topic from yesterday. All of those men reading about boob sweat, too funny! I am a huge Braves fan so I did know what they were talking about…hopefully Escobar comes out after the break alot better than he went into it! Go Braves! And good luck to all the Braves playing in the All Star game tonight!


July 13th, 2010
10:35 am

I’m not sure what the point of this screening is. If your family history is strong for high cholesterol, your kids’ cholesterol will probably be high despite any diet or exercise programs (if we believe that cholesterol in children behaves the same ways as cholesterol does in adults). For a lot of people with hereditary high cholesterol, medication is the best way to handle it. Are doctors going to start prescribing cholesterol medication to children? These medications have not been widely studied in children, and there are risks to them, specifically muscle pain and liver damage.
I’ve always been told that coronary artery disease, of which high cholesterol is a symptom, can’t exist until age 50 anyway. I wonder what’s the truth?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

July 13th, 2010
11:42 am

Photius — play nice —

on the treatment side — that one doctor quoted in the story was all about diet and exercise but I think it depends on how high it is — there was a story from a just a few days ago about a chewable high cholesterol drug being approved — chewable — as in aimed at kids — so I guess there will be kids put on high cholesterol medicine –


July 13th, 2010
12:51 pm

@Photius..The owner of the company where I work just turned 76, goes to the gym 4 days per week and is in really great shape, eats very healthy but he takes meds for high cholesterol, so?? My husband rides his bike (with granddaughter on back) on the Silver Comet trail from Hiram to Rockmart about 3 times per week, he also takes meds for high cholesterol, so why do you think it’s only chunky people that have to take meds for high cholesterol?


July 13th, 2010
2:31 pm

It sounds like a lot of people with high cholesterol are not visually unhealthy. If that’s the case, how will this visual assessment of waste size change the number of kids who are diagnosed? If it’s simply the overweight kids, shouldn’t the doctor be talking to them about diet and exercise anyway and not just to promote kids popping a pill and taking the easy way out of lowering their cholesterol? On the flip side, if even visually healthy people have high cholesterol, why aren’t all kids being screened?

I’m not conspiracy theorist by any means but it does kind of sound like a push from the pharmaceutical industry may be prompting this questioning more so than sound medical evidence if they’re on the verge of releasing cholesterol lowering meds for kids.

And to SuwaneeMommy’s point- what is the benefit of earlier detection of high cholesterol? Do the benefits of taking medication outweigh the risks of taking these meds longterm?


July 13th, 2010
2:46 pm

It does have a lot to do with the pharm companies, constantly wanting to push drugs on people… Doctors and researchers keep lowering the numbers for both BP and Cholesterol. First anything under 140/90 was great for BP, now you have to be under 120/80 …. Why? so the Dr.’s will perscribe meds to get that number down even if you are 130/85 …. Sorry on a rant, as that happened to me at 32, I get whitecoat in the worst way, I bought a home monitor and it is perfect… They put me on meds regardless, and I passed out my BP went so low… Dr. said “gee… I guess you really are ok…(they had me on lowest dose possible)…

Same with Cholesteral… For years it was under 200 is great… Now its “well, we would really like under 180″ …. Hmmmmm…. Does make one wonder the motives? Health or money?


July 13th, 2010
2:54 pm

@unconn..LMAO..You nailed it about the pharm companies and Drs. pushing the limit..I know a lady that is about 4′ 9″ tall and weighs like 103..She won’t eat much of anything, because her Dr. told her that her weight is what causes her to have to take BP meds..WTH? She said that he told her she was overweight and needs to lose weight..If that we me, I’d find a new Dr.

Hey, uconn...

July 13th, 2010
3:00 pm

…my recent drug screen said the “normal” limit for TOTAL choldesterol is between 150 – 200. And at $10 (at Wal-mart) per 90 day supply, there does not seem to be much in it for the drug companies…

that should be...

July 13th, 2010
3:02 pm

…”per 90 day supply for the 40mg dose of the statin prescribed for me by my MD”…

And, at the same time...

July 13th, 2010
3:04 pm

…on the other side of the argument, my MD prescribed the statin for me this time when my cholesterol level was 213, and it has fluctuated for the past 5 years between 185 – 215, yet this was the first time he prescribed any meds. Must be because I am old and fatter now….

Hey, Tiger...

July 13th, 2010
3:06 pm

…any sighting of that bear in your neighborhood (in CO) that broke into that family’s garage?


July 13th, 2010
4:35 pm

just finished reading the book ‘nurture shock’ which included some very convincing studies showing lack of sleep is a big contributor to childhood obesity. Kids in the last 20 years are getting at least an hour less sleep than in the 70’s or before. Less sleep causes your body to release (or inhibit) chemicals which affect hunger, glucose processing, storage and burning of fat. This affects kids even more than adults because of the difference in their sleep cycles (i.e. they stay longer in some types of sleep than adults do).
Don’t know how that would affect cholesterol specifically but it was very interesting information.

Active Duty Mom

July 13th, 2010
5:10 pm

If a child has been diagnosed with high cholesterol, it is recommended that you consult a Registered Dietitian (RD) who can work with the family by providing medical nutrition therapy to help normalize the cholesterol levels. To find an RD, ask your pediatrician which RDs they work with or go to to locate an RD near you. There are several in the Atlanta area who specialize in pediatrics and are board certified in pediatric nutrition. Before your first visit with the RD, it is a good idea to keep a food diary of what time your child is eating and drinking, what they are eating and drinking and the quantities of food and drink. This will give the RD a better idea of where to start.


July 13th, 2010
6:07 pm

If your child is being fed McFatty foods and vegging out with video games/tv on a regular basis then YES they probably have issues like diabetes, high cholesterol etc in their not so distant futures.

If you are serving them HEALTHY balanced meals with even normal childhood exercise (swing sets, tree climbing, pools in summer) then they should be fine.

No I am not a “professional” on this but my cousin is a Certified Nutrionist in PA. I got this info from him.


July 13th, 2010
6:18 pm

@ “whatever your going to call yourself to start your post” that may only be the $10 COPAY or YOUR out of pocket at the Walmart, Walgreens etc. Go look at that bag again, you will see YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY is paying a large chunk to the drug maker (Abbott/SmithKline, etc) for that drug. Don’t kid yourself those drug companies make a fortune off the insurance companies. My kids’ doctor keeps trying get me to change her meds–uh no, the one we have works fine and since it is now GENERIC it costs the insurance company much less too. The stuff he wants to move her to will work the same…no real reason to move her he said…but it is new, does not have a generic and cost about 3 times as much.

More people in the US could afford to have good medical coverage if they would stand up and demand this kind of BS to stop. We don’t Federal Medcare we need an informed public….and more over the counter meds, legalized drugs….oh well better stay on topic and off my soap box.


July 13th, 2010
6:26 pm

@ FCM….whatever you’re going to call yourself to start your post: is priceless! Thanks!
Does the bear in Tiger’s neighborhood have high cholesterol? I am trying to follow.