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Many Kids May Have High Cholesterol

Abnormal levels seen in 1 of 3 children, possibly raising future heart disease risk, researcher says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- About one of three Texas kids screened for cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 11 had borderline or high cholesterol, potentially placing them at greater risk for future cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.

Obese kids were more likely to have abnormal cholesterol levels, but a large percentage of normal-weight children also had borderline or high cholesterol, said lead investigator Dr. Thomas Seery, a pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston.

"The reality is that 35 percent of kids who were not obese had abnormal cholesterol as well," Seery said.

Physicians and parents need to teach kids healthy habits, such as eating right and exercising regularly, or as adults they will be more likely to suffer heart disease and stroke, he said.

"Cardiovascular disease in children is rare, but we know that atherosclerosis has its beginnings in childhood," Seery said. "The better a job we do now, the better they will do later in life."

Previous studies have indicated that as many as 70 percent of children who have elevated cholesterol levels maintained those high levels as they entered young adulthood, said Dr. Patricia Vuguin, a pediatric endocrinologist at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"Your cholesterol at 9 is a reflection of where your cholesterol is going to be in your 40s and 50s," Vuguin said.

The new findings, scheduled to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, held in Washington, D.C., take an even darker tone when held next to another study also featured at the meeting.

That study found that middle-school kids who spend two hours or more at a television or computer screen each day are more likely to chow down junk food and have increased risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers said.

The study of about 1,000 sixth-graders in southeast Michigan found that avid TV viewers and computer/video game users both reported eating about 3.5 snacks a day -- one full snack more than children who had low exposure to these technologies.

"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.

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