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Experts Say Cholesterol Screenings Should Start in Childhood

FRIDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- All children should be screened for high cholesterol when they're 9 to 11 years old, according to new guidelines from the National Lipid Association.

The group also urges that children with a family history of premature cardiovascular disease or elevated cholesterol be screened for cholesterol with a simple blood test as early as age 2.

"It's important that people know if a history of high cholesterol runs in their family," Dr. Patrick M. Moriarty, professor of medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center and an author of the guidelines, said in a news release from the association. "Family discussions can lead to early diagnosis, which is critical because changes in diet and eating habits at a young age can help reduce the impact . . . later in life. Plus, treatment is more effective when started early, before cholesterol deposits in blood vessels become too advanced."

The recommendations are part of new guidelines for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of inherited high cholesterol, or familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition marked by high LDL cholesterol, the "bad" type of cholesterol that blocks arteries. The hereditary condition affects more than 600,000 Americans, according to the association.

"Some estimates suggest that only about 20 percent of patients with [familial hypercholesterolemia] are properly diagnosed, and, of those, less than half receive appropriate treatment," Moriarty said.

Published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, the guidelines are part of a consumer education program the association hopes will improve early diagnosis of the disease by prompting family dialogue about cholesterol.

"If we can get families talking, we hope to make a real difference in helping patients get the care they need," Moriarty said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: National Lipid Association, news release, May 18, 2011

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