Cholesterol screening recommended for 9-year-olds
November 11th, 2011
02:40 PM ET

Cholesterol screening recommended for 9-year-olds

Children should all be tested for high cholesterol between ages 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21 years of age, regardless of their family history, according to new guidelines released Friday.

The updated recommendations, aimed at fighting cardiovascular disease before it starts, came in a report released by the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The more we learn about heart disease and stroke in adults, the more we know that the process begins in childhood and progresses over time,” wrote Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, chairman of the panel that reviewed the guidelines. “By working with families, we can keep kids at a lower lifetime risk and prevent more serious problems in adulthood.”

Previously, the AAP recommended only screening children who had a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease.

To make the new recommendations simpler to implement, the panel also suggested that pediatricians could use a specific type of cholesterol screening test that does not require kids to fast before getting their blood drawn.

In addition to updating cholesterol screening guidelines, the report also reinforces that children should be exclusively breast-fed through their first year of life, and recommends a diet low in saturated fat after one year. The new guidelines also encourage parents to protect their children from tobacco smoke, and encourages them to engage in physical activity - both contributing factors to heart disease later in life.

“We’re aware that pediatricians have a long list of things they have to address as part of health promotion and disease prevention. This is really an important part of what should be on that list,” Daniels wrote. “We as pediatricians really need to get kids started on the right track and keep them in as low a risk category as possible.”

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