Dr. William Neal, a pediatric cardiologist from WVU lead the study and warns that many children may be facing high cholesterol numbers that are not being found. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can be a health concern for children as well as adults, and may be missed in routine health screenings. Having prolonged high levels of LDL can lead to cardiovascular disease.
“Screening all children would identify a number of children who are of very significant risk of premature heart disease.”
The researchers studied fifth grade students over the last 10 years, screening them for high LDL levels. Of the children screened, 71 percent had family health problems that would lead a doctor to consider screening them as children. However, of the children that would not normally be tested, 10 percent had high LDL cholesterol levels. One percent were high enough to require medication. Had they not been screened for the study, they could have gone on to have heart disease at a young age.
Testing all children, not just those with family histories, would help find children whose high cholesterol might otherwise go undetected.
“We would have missed 36 percent of children with seriously high LDL.”
Previous studies found that only 25 percent of children at risk would be missed in the standard screenings. This study raises that number significantly. Dr. Ralph Sacco, president, American Heart Association (AHA), feels that the current screening methods are not very effective at finding children who need preventative cholesterol care. However, he is hesitant about making cholesterol testing something that children have done.
“I think we need more effective screening tools. We need to assess these options before jumping to possible universal screening,” added Sacco.
The full study will be published in the medical journal “Pediatrics”. – Summer, staff writer
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