Children should universally have a cholesterol test performed between ages 9 and 11 to screen for elevated risk for heart disease, a government panel recommended last week. The recommendation is subject to debate between doctors who believe early testing could help parents set their kids on healthy eating and exercise regimens, and those who fear that the tests will lead to overuse of prescription cholesterol-lowering drugs in children.
The panel, which was convened by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, argued that children who control their cholesterol levels during childhood substantially lower their risk of developing later heart disease.
"We came up with these new guidelines based on a number of studies showing that the current approach to cholesterol screening misses children with substantially elevated levels who could benefit from changing their diet or increasing their physical activity,'' Dr. Stephen Daniels, chairman of the panel that reviewed the guidelines and pediatrician-in-chief at Children's Hospital Colorado, told The Associated Press.
Currently, cholesterol tests are not routine for children, unless they have a significant family risk or other health problems like diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the panel's recommendation.
Image: Little girl having a blood test via Shutterstock.