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Should all kids be tested for cholesterol?

July 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Because of the obesity epidemic, doctors are finding evidence of heart disease in younger and younger kids. Does that mean every child should have their cholesterol checked regularly?The next time 9-year-old Shelby Peckham goes in for a checkup, her exam may include a screening for high cholesterol.

A new report in the Journal Pediatrics found more than one percent of all fifth graders in West Virginia study had cholesterol levels so high they warranted drug treatment.

Currently, doctors may only recommend testing if a child has a strong family history, but researchers argue screening based on this criteria means tens of thousands of kids with high cholesterol are not getting identified.

Pediatrician Marsha Gerro says there can be some pros to universal testing.

"No one would fall thru the cracks. We would not miss any cases and we could intervene early," said Dr. Gerro.

Not everybody think universal screening is a good idea. The U.S. Preventive Task Force says there's no evidence that giving a 10-year-old cholesterol lowering drugs will prevent heart disease at age 40.

"Are we committing this child for the rest of their life? All medications have side effects," said Dr. Gerro. "There is nothing that we do in medicine that is not without side effects."

Shelby's dad is concerned too many kids would be put on medications unnecessarily.

"Unfortunately, I do think there are some doctors out there that push the latest and greatest whatever," said Chad Peckham.

But he has faith in his daughter's doctor and encourages other parents to do their homework.

"Definitely look into it and do your own research. Trust your own pediatrician," he said.

Dr. Gerro says a child being overweight would be another reason she might recommend a test. And yet another disadvantage to universal cholesterol testing would be the cost. In the study, researchers found many of the kids who had high cholesterol did not have a family history.


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