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Children's Health

Many Kids May Have High Cholesterol

Abnormal levels seen in 1 of 3 children, possibly raising future heart disease risk, researcher says
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"Parents need to monitor their kids' activities," said senior author Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, an associate professor in the division of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan. "Our results offer even more reason to limit the amount of TV time kids have and are right in line with current recommendations," she said in a meeting news release.

Seery and his colleagues undertook their research after new guidelines for juvenile cholesterol screening were issued by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in 2011 and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The guidelines call for all children between the ages of 9 and 11 to undergo a cholesterol screening, with a follow-up screening between ages 17 and 21.

To see what these screenings might reveal, the researchers reviewed the medical records of nearly 13,000 children tested for cholesterol levels between January 2010 and July 2013 as part of a routine physical exam within the Texas Children's Pediatrics Associates clinics, a large pediatric primary care organization.

They found the following:

  • Boys were more likely to have abnormal levels of total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats).
  • Girls were more likely to have abnormal levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.
  • Hispanic children were more likely to have abnormal levels of triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.
  • Obese children were more likely to have across-the-board abnormal levels of every type of cholesterol, with 41 percent suffering a borderline or high total cholesterol levels.
  • About 35 percent of healthy-weight children had abnormal total cholesterol levels.

Seery hopes these findings will lead pediatricians to follow the recommended cholesterol screening guidelines for children.

These screenings present "the perfect opportunity for clinicians and parents to discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle choices on cardiovascular health," he said. "Our findings give a compelling reason to screen all kids' blood cholesterol."

He intends to conduct follow-up research to see how well pediatricians are adhering to the guidelines.

Some pediatricians have been reluctant to screen for fear that children will be put on cholesterol-lowering medications like statins, Seery said.

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