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Kids & Cholesterol Screening

August 8, 2012, 6:08 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Kids & Cholesterol Screening

You may think only adults need to get their cholesterol checked, but the battle against heart disease starts for many people when they're kids.

Kids as young as three can be diagnosed with high cholesterol, and a government-appointed panel has recommended widespread screening.  But not all health specialists agree with that.

Matt and Andrew White are both active teenagers, competing with the Sioux Falls East baseball team this summer. Despite having healthy habits, they both decided to get their cholesterol checked.

"My uncle had a heart attack, and my grandpa had some heart issues with diabetes and stuff," Andrew said.

A government-appointed panel wants more than just people like the Whites who have a family history of heart problems to get their cholesterol checked.

"The new recommendations are to test everybody between age nine and 11 for the first time and 18 to 21 for the second time unless there are some of those family risk factors that are present," Avera Pediatrician Dr. Sam Schimelpfenig said.

Schimelpfenig follows the new recommendations, even though not all doctors and patients agree with them.

"It's kind of up to the families too. If they choose not to test, I definitely would be fine with that especially if there's not any real big risk factors, but the literature tells us if you're just going on family history, you're still going to miss about 20 to 30 percent of kids who might actually have high cholesterol," Schimelpfenig said.

The debate doesn't end with whether kids should be tested but also how they should be treated. Some worry putting children on cholesterol drugs could do more harm than good.

"Even for adults, the first time you're diagnosed with high cholesterol we recommend changing your lifestyle.  So monitoring the diet a little bit closer, watching your saturated fat intake and then getting exercise, and we do the same thing for kids," Schimelpfenig said.

But the Whites can now focus more on hitting a home run, rather than having high cholesterol.

"We got our cholesterol level checked, and we turned out good," Andrew said.

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