Although elevated cholesterol levels are generally considered an adult problem, a new study suggests that current screening guidelines for cholesterol in children miss many kids who already have higher cholesterol levels than they should.
The study found that almost 10 percent of children who didn't fit the current criteria for cholesterol screening already had elevated cholesterol levels.
"Our data retrospectively looked at a little over 20,000 fifth-grade children screened over several years. We found 548 children -- who didn't merit screening under current guidelines -- with cholesterol abnormalities. And of those, 98 had sufficiently elevated levels that one would consider the use of cholesterol-lowering medications," said Dr. William Neal, director of the Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities (CARDIAC) Project at the Robert C. Byrd Health Science Center at West Virginia University.
"I think our data pretty conclusively show that all children should be screened for cholesterol abnormalities," he added.
Results of the study will be published in the August issue of Pediatrics, but will appear online July 12. Researchers said they had no financial relationships relevant to the report to disclose.
The current guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Project recommend cholesterol screening for children with parents or grandparents who have a history of premature heart disease -- before age 55 -- or those whose parents have significantly elevated cholesterol levels -- total cholesterol above 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. NCEP guidelines also recommend screening for children whose family history is unknown, particularly if they have other risk factors such as obesity.