Nearly one out of three American kids has borderline or high cholesterol, putting them at greater risk for future cardiovascular disease, new research shows.
In one of the largest studies of outpatient pediatric clinic visits to date, Texas researchers examined the medical records of 12,712 children – between 9 and 11 years old – who were checked for cholesterol as part of a routine physical exam at the Texas Children's Pediatrics Associates clinics.
The analysis showed 4,709 – 30 percent – had at least borderline high levels and might benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, Medical Xpress reports.
"The sheer number of kids with abnormal lipid profiles provides further evidence that this is a population that needs attention and could potentially benefit from treatment," said lead researcher Thomas Seery, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children's Hospital and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "But we can only intervene if we diagnose the problem."
Certain risk factors in childhood can increase the chances of developing heart disease as an adult. Past studies have shown that atherosclerosis – a hardening and narrowing of the arteries – can begin in childhood.
"We know that higher levels of, and cumulative exposure to, high cholesterol is associated with the development and severity of atherosclerosis," Dr. Seery said. "If we can identify and work to lower cholesterol in children, we can potentially make a positive impact by stalling vascular changes and reducing the chances of future disease."
The study found that boys were more likely than girls to have elevated total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – or "bad" cholesterol – and triglycerides, while girls had lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – "good" cholesterol. Obese children were more likely to have elevated total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, and lower HDL than their normal-weight peers.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal cholesterol screening of children between the ages of 9 and 11 years and, again between 17 and 21 years of age.
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