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High Cholesterol In Children: Should Your Child Be Tested For High Cholesterol?

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Updated September 15, 2013

Question: High Cholesterol In Children: Should Your Child Be Tested For High Cholesterol?
Answer: If you’re an adult, leaving your high cholesterol levels unchecked could have serious consequences, leading to a heart attack or stroke. In order to prevent these complications, it is recommended that you have your cholesterol checked at least every five years after the age of 20.

However, there has been a big debate over whether or not children should also have their cholesterol levels checked. Studies have shown that atherosclerosis often begins early in life in the form of fatty streaks on the inner walls of arteries. Although most of these fatty streaks will not result in plaques that can slow blood flow to vital organs in the body, some of them can lead to atherosclerosis later on in life –- placing your child at risk for heart disease later on in life. By addressing high cholesterol levels early in children, it is thought that this could prevent a lot of complications in adulthood.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that children that are at risk of having high cholesterol should have their cholesterol tested sometime after the age of two and before the age of ten. Some of the following factors that can place your child at risk for having high cholesterol levels include:

  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet (especially including fatty foods, junk foods)
  • Diabetes
  • Having a parent with high cholesterol
  • Having a family history of early heart disease
Cholesterol testing in your child is similar to adults –- blood is drawn from the arm and the child must be fasting for at least 8 to 12 hours in order to have an accurate test.

If your child’s lipid panel is normal, then their cholesterol should be rechecked in three to five years. If your child’s cholesterol is too high, lifestyle modifications –- and sometimes medication –- may be needed to lower it. Your child’s pediatrician will decide which treatment is appropriate and will have your child return at regular intervals to have it checked.

Sources:

Daniels SR, Greer FR et al. Lipid screening and cardiovascular health in childhood. Pediatrics 2008; 122:198-208.

Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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