Children ages 9-11 should have their cholesterol levels checked by their pediatricians, recommends the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
High cholesterol doesn’t just affect adults, it can occur in children as well. And it’s not always associated with obesity. By checking cholesterol levels in kids, doctors can identify risk factors early on to reduce their risk of heart disease as adults.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened after age 2 but no later than age 10. If the fasting lipid profile is normal, the test need not be repeated for another three to five years. Overweight and obese children who have a high blood-fat level or low level of “good” HDL cholesterol are advised to adopt a healthier lifestyle, which includes regular exercise and a healthier diet.
However, a handful of children are genetically predisposed to extremely high cholesterol, or have a family history of high cholesterol and early heart disease. For these kids ages 8 and older, drug treatment may be considered to protect them against cardiovascular disease in the future.
Statins, such as the widely prescribed Lipitor, are the primary cholesterol-lowering treatment for adults, but there is little research on the long-term safety and effectiveness of the drugs in children. While statins have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and help prevent heart attacks, strokes and death, many people cannot tolerate the side effects.
Reactions to the drugs include muscle aches and injury, and liver damage. Statins can also increase blood sugar levels, putting users at risk for type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that can increase the risk of of heart disease, kidney disease, dementia and blindness.