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Kids and Cholesterol

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You might notice a change at your child's next checkup. In between getting measured and saying ahh, don't be surprised when your pediatrician recommends screening her for high cholesterol. Nope, this isn't your doc's roundabout way of saying your kid looks unhealthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently endorsed new guidelines calling for all children to be screened between ages 9 and 11. This replaces a previous recommendation that called for testing only kids with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.

So, Why Screen All Kids?  

Basically, the goal is to nip the problem in the bud. Identifying kids with high cholesterol early could prevent them from having a heart attack or stroke down the road, says Stephen Daniels, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at Children's Hospital Colorado and chair of the panel that created the new guidelines. Couple that with recent studies that show screening only kids with a family history isn't effective enough, and the reasons for concern become more clear.Here's another thing: It's not always obvious which kids are at risk. “There's much more to cholesterol than weight,” says Dr. Daniels. Some kids have high cholesterol due to genetics but are still at a normal weight for their age.

What to Expect: 

Your child will be given a blood test at her checkup (she won't need to fast). If she's diagnosed with high cholesterol due to lifestyle issues, the first course of treatment is improving diet and increasing exercise. After about six months of lifestyle changes, if high LDL (bad) cholesterol is still a problem, medication may be considered, says Dr. Daniels.