Updated 11/11/2011 05:54 PM
Kids' Cholesterol Tests Should Be Done Earlier, Experts Say
New recommendations suggest kids should be tested for cholesterol levels at about age 10. NY1’s Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
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All children should be checked to see if their cholesterol is too high at least once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between the ages of 17 and 21. It’s a new, key recommendation being set by the American Academy of Pediatrics to lower heart disease risk.
“If a mom or dad knows their child has high cholesterol, they may be more willing to change a diet, increase the child's exercise, maybe stop smoking, just be more aware of your child's health so you can do more things to help them be healthy,” says Dr. Jessica Sessions of the Ryan Community Health Center.
The guidelines are a more aggressive approach than those of the past, which only called for screening children with a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol.
Heart disease is rare in children, but doctors are increasingly concerned about risk factors and behaviors beginning in childhood, like diabetes and weight gain, that can impact adult health.
In for a regular visit even at the young age of 11, Aylin Cruz says she understands the importance of keeping track of a healthy ticker and tries to keep it that way.
“I eat all kinds of healthy salads like fruits, glasses of water every day,” says Cruz.
In addition to the regular cholesterol check, the American Academy of Pediatrics is also recommending other ways families can keep their children heart-healthy. Those range from moms choosing to breast feed to children and adolescents staying away from smoking.
“It's more about establishing healthy habits from a young age. If you start off with fast food at age one, then at age two, three, four, and five that is what your child is going to like and that is what they are going to demand. So it is really important, even from birth, to look at what is your child drinking, what is your child eating and really pay attention to those things for prevention,” says Dr. Sessions.
In addition to more regular cholesterol screenings, some doctors also recommend weight and body mass index checks. While cholesterol can be a good measure for potential health risk, it is just one piece of the puzzle.