Kids to Get Heart Disease Screening
American Academy of Pediatrics Advises Drugs for Kids Over 8 With High Cholesterol
Hsu hopes doctors won't whittle
down the AAP recommendations and start prescribing drug treatment to children
with less extreme cholesterol levels.
are really strong drugs. You should never prescribe them unless you have a
really good reason," she says. "We don't know the effects of this
treatment as children enter their teens. Maybe these drugs block something you
need as an adolescent. It would be wrong to extrapolate this treatment
recommendation to a different population of children who are not at as high
Why screen kids for heart disease?
Very few people actually die of heart disease until they are adults. But a slew
of recent studies shows that the seeds of heart disease are sown during
childhood. Fatty streaks and artery-clogging plaque build up during childhood
and adolescence -- and the more heart-disease risk factors a child has, the
faster this fat and plaque builds up in the arteries.
Do kids with too-high cholesterol
really need to see a pediatric cardiologist?
"Well, these kids are not
going to have a stroke or heart attack as a child," Hsu says. "It takes
a village of people to help a family adopt a healthier lifestyle. It is good
for us pediatric cardiologists to explain in more detail why children need to
control their cholesterol. But lifestyle change is really difficult, and you
really need a culturally sensitive program that can offer children and families
the education that is best for them."
Here's an overview of the new AAP
- All children should eat a healthy
diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, better known as the
new food pyramid. This approach includes the use of low-fat dairy
- Children at higher risk of heart
disease and with high cholesterol levels will have to change their diets. This
will require nutritional counseling from a dietitian as well as increased
- Screening is advised for kids
with a family history of high cholesterol or blood fats, or a family history of
premature heart disease (age 55 or younger for men, age 65 or younger for
women). Screening is also recommended for kids who are overweight (at or above
the 85th percentile), who smoke, or who have diabetes or high blood
- First screening is recommended
after age 2, but no later than age 10. Children under 2 should not be
- If the fasting lipid profile is
normal, a child should be screened again in three to five years.
- For kids who are overweight or
obese and who have a high blood-fat level or low level of "good" HDL
cholesterol, weight management is the primary treatment. This means improved
diet with nutritional counseling and increased physical exercise.
- For kids aged 8 and older with
very high cholesterol levels (or high levels with a family history of early
heart disease), drug treatment should be considered.
The new recommendations appear in
the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.