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I’m all for self-empowerment when it comes to heath care. I also really believe in taking preventative measures, when and if, they’re appropriate. After all, wouldn’t it be better to avoid getting sick in the first place versus treating yourself after you’re ill? So, when it comes to caring for your heart, when is it too early to begin screening for heart disease? The answer to this question just might surprise you. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, screening for high cholesterol should begin at age 2, with statin therapy starting as early as age 8 for some groups of children.
The new AAP recommendations were based on the results of the Universal Versus Targeted Blood Cholesterol Screening Among Youth: The CARDIAC Project. The CARDIAC Project was no small undertaking. Researchers took the family cardiac history, along with the lipid profiles, of 20,000 fifth graders in the state of West Virginia. This study differed from other studies in that all of the fifth grade students were tested for cholesterol levels regardless of whether or not they fit the risk “profile” for heart disease. Profile factors included a familial history of early heart disease or dyslipidemia. About 71 percent of the students tested fit the profile while the remaining students tested (5,798) had no risk factors. Of the group which had no risk factors for heart disease, researchers found 268 students with cholesterol high enough to recommend medical intervention (i.e. treatment with statin drugs). As a result of the study, researchers recommend testing all children regardless of risk factors for heart disease.
Other recommendations regarding children and cholesterol include:
• Cholesterol screening for children beginning at age 2 (but no later than age 10), if there is a familial history of smoking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, dyslipidemia, or premature heart attack.
• Treatment with statins for children beginning at age 8 who have LDL cholesterol of more than 190 mg/dL. (If there is a family history of heart disease or if at least two other risk factors are present, this figure goes to 160 mg/dL.