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Should All Children Be Tested for High Cholesterol?

After a large-scale study in West Virginia, researchers are suggesting that cholesterol screening be a mandated test for American kids, which would allow for early diagnosis.

The study found that one-third of children whose cholesterol levels were high enough to merit treatment were being missed by guidelines so dependent upon family history.

Dr. Richard Besser, senior health and medical editor for ABC News, is cautious of the study. He said the study did not take into account obesity levels and that we should be careful putting young children on medication they may have to use for the rest of their lives.

Instead, he, like many other health professionals, believes that we could do a much better job at tackling the root cause of high cholesterol by addressing childhood obesity.

Promoting healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle from parents on down would yield much more longstanding and effective health results than the quick band-aid reaction of simply writing kids out a prescription for statin medications.

Last year, pediatricians wrote out three millions prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs. And in England, there is a chewable form of Lipitor, the popular cholesterol-lowering medication, making it an all too easy reach for doctors and parents who want the quick fix and don’t want to address the lifestyle component of high cholesterol.

Currently, cholesterol screening is recommended for anyone who has a parent or grandparent who experienced a heart attack before age 55, a parent who has a cholesterol level of 240 or greater, or a child who has a diagnosed risk factor.

Dr. Besser recommends that if your child has high cholesterol, hone in on the main culprit: Is it genetic or is it lifestyle?

Those with a genetic condition must take the medication to treat their high cholesterol. If it’s due to lifestyle, Dr. Besser encourages kids to eat a plant-based diet and to increase their amount of exercise to at least one hour a day.

While adopting a different way of eating and living to lower cholesterol may not be easy, both the immediate and long-term benefits far outweigh popping a pill.

(via: ABCNews.com)

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July 21st, 2010

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