NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Should Kids Worry About Cholesterol?

December 24, 2003

New research suggests that heart disease and stroke start in childhood and adolescence.

Researchers have found that high levels of bad cholesterol in childhood predict a dangerous thickening of artery walls in adulthood, an early sign of problems that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

According to a recent study:

  • Children and adolescents with the highest levels of bad cholesterol have a 42 percent greater chance of developing a thickening of their carotid artery walls in adulthood than those with lower levels.
  • Those with a highest body-mass index have a 25 percent greater chance of the thickening of their carotid artery walls.
  • In 12- to 18-year-olds, high levels of bad cholesterol are directly related to the thickening of the carotid artery walls later in life; however, the researchers found less of a connection in younger kids.

Despite the findings, doctors are still undecided about whether cholesterol screening is necessary for kids. However, they do agree that parents should limit kids' intake of saturated and trans fats regardless of cholesterol levels.

Sources: Patricia Callahan, "Should Kids Worry About Cholesterol? New Research Suggests High Levels at Early Age Can Cause Heart Disease," Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2003 and Henry McGill and C. Alex McMahan, "Starting Earlier to Prevent Heart Disease," Journal of the American Medical Association, November 5, 2003; based upon Shengxu Li et al, "Childhood Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Cartoid Vascular Changes in Adulthood: The Bogalusa Heart Study," Journal of the American Medical Association, November 5, 2003; Olli Raitakari et al, "Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Childhood and Carotid Artery Intima-Media Thickness in Adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study," Journal of the American Medical Association, November 5, 2003.

For JAMA text (subscription required)

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/290/17/2271

 

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