As many as one-third of all preteens may have borderline or high cholesterol, putting them at risk of heart problems later in life, a new study suggests.
The study involved 13,000 Texas preteens and will be presented at the American College of Cardiology conference this week. Researchers say it sheds light on the growing problem of high cholesterol in children and whether more can be done to prevent long-term consequences as these children age.
Recently, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute announced new guidelines calling for every child to have a cholesterol test sometime between ages 9 and 11. Some doctors and parents have balked at such a notion, saying it is unnecessary. However, the new study seems to suggest that it may be beneficial and could signal an issue that could be dealt with years before it becomes a problem.
An estimated 13 percent of U.S. fourth graders have high cholesterol. Half of them will have it as adults, raising their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other health problems.
The first line of defense is generally lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise. However, a small group may have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. Those children, the guidelines state, may benefit from cholesterol lowering statin medications, such as Lipitor. However, experts say, that should be a last option.
Statin medications carry side effects that can make them intolerable to some. The drugs have been linked to muscle injury and liver problems. The drugs can also increase blood sugar levels putting users at risk for type 2 diabetes, another growing health problem facing adults as well as children.
Source: Washington Post