The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for children to be screened for cholesterol. And it recommends that children as young as 8-years-old, with very high cholesterol, to be put on statins, the same cholesterol- lowering drugs many adults take.
The warning to families is blunt: Get more aggressive about identifying and treating children with high cholesterol. Dr. Sarah Clauss from the Children's National Medical Center said, "They are more at risk than they ever have been. There are many problems with the diets they are consuming. We need to help these children."
But using a prescription drug to lower the cholesterol on an 8-year-old? Under the new guidelines, children as young as 8 could be given a cholesterol-lowering "statin" if they have very high levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol coupled with other risk facts, such as family history of early heart disease. Dr. Clauss said, "The goal is to reduce the bad or "LDL" cholesterol in children with the hope of reducing heart attacks and strokes as an adult."
But many pediatricians today are urging caution, because so little is known about the long-term safety of these statins in children. Dr. Daphne Hsu from The Children's Hosp. at Montifiore said, "Statins should be used in children only when it's absolutely necessary. Medications of any type have risks, especially in children that are growing and developing."
Many parents were also concerned. One said, "That's pretty young. I am shocked." Try telling that to the Kroll family. Sixteen-year-old Connor has been taking the drug Lipitor for the last four years cutting his cholesterol levels almost in half. Mother Audrey Kroll said, "I'm not crazy about medications but nothing else worked. He tried a a very strict diet and that didn't work.
Whether families use a drug or diet and exercise to get their child's cholesterol levels under control, the new guidelines say more children, at the very least, need to have their cholesterol levels checked. And starting as young as 2 years of age, if they have a family history of high cholesterol and early heart disease. Or for any child where the family medical history is not known.
This evening, the message is clear: with heart disease beginning so early in life, many children need much more help sooner than later.
What do you think about this recommendation?
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