HealthDay News — About one-in-three kids aged 9 to 11 years who had a cholesterol panel performed had borderline or high cholesterol, study results from one of the largest studies of outpatient pediatric clinic visits to date indicate.
Overall, 4,709 children — about 30% of the 12,712 children included in the study — had borderline or elevated total cholesterol as defined by the National Cholesterol Education Program, Thomas Seery, MD, from Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, and colleagues reported at the American College of Cardiology 2014 Scientific Sessions.
The retrospective medical record review examined rates of hyperlipidemia and hypertriglyceridemia and included all 9- to 11-year-olds who underwent a physical examination at Texas Children’s Hospital from January 2010 to July 2013.
Currently, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics call for universal cholesterol screening for all children between the ages of 9 and 11 years and, again between 17 and 21 years of age. Yet some practitioners have lagged in adopting the recommendations, expressing concerns that many children will be started on medication unnecessarily.
“Our findings give a compelling reason to screen all kids’ blood cholesterol,” Seery said in a press release. “Kids need to have their cholesterol panel checked at some point during this timeframe. In doing so, it presents the perfect opportunity for clinicians and parents to discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle choices on cardiovascular health.”
In the study sample, mean body mass index was 19.3 kg/m², and total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and triglycerides were 162, 92, 52 and 103 mg/dL, respectively.
Males were more likely to have elevated total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides than females, whereas lower HDL was more likely among females, the researchers found.
Obese children were more likely to have elevated total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, with lower HDL in comparison to non-obese children.
Furthermore, similar to recent unrelated study findings in adult Hispanic males, Hispanic children were more likely to have elevated triglycerides and lower HDL than non-Hispanics, but total cholesterol and LDL did not differ between the groups.
“The sheer number of kids with abnormal lipid profiles provides further evidence that this is a population that needs attention and could potentially benefit from treatment,” Seery said. “But we can only intervene if we diagnose the problem.”
The findings are particularly important amid the growing obesity epidemic, which is resulting in a larger population of children with dyslipidemia, he added.
“We know that higher levels of, and cumulative exposure to, high cholesterol is associated with the development and severity of atherosclerosis. If we can identify and work to lower cholesterol in children, we can potentially make a positive impact by stalling vascular changes and reducing the chances of future disease,” Seery said.
Study limitations include a cohort limited to the region in and around Houston, and may not be generalizable to other regions, the researchers cautioned.
They called for more studies to examine the rate at which primary care clinicians are following universal pediatric cholesterol screening guidelines since the roll out in 2011.