Should children be screened for cholesterol?
A new set of pediatric guidelines recommends that kids as young as nine get screened for high cholesterol as well as high blood pressure.
With childhood obesity poised to produce perhaps the most unhealthy, inactive set of adults in modern history, US pediatricians together with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute are recommending that kids get their cholesterol levels checked between the ages of 9 and 11, and then re-screened between the ages of 17 and 21.
The new guidelines were published last week in the journal Pediatrics with the endorsement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, under the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Though heart disease is rare in young kids, risk factors like poor diet and nutrition in childhood can accelerate the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD), or the hardening of the arteries, in adulthood. Experts advise that while CVD is "minimally reversible" in adulthood, managing a healthy diet and body weight at a young age can help prevent its onset later on.
Meanwhile, a 2009 study out of the University of Michigan also found that body fat is a poor gauge for predicting cholesterol levels in kids, as children within a healthy weight range were found to have high lipid levels, and the same was true of the reverse.
The new guidelines, created by a team led by Dr. Stephen Daniels from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, also includes a host of other recommendations that include regular blood pressure and body mass index checks for kids.
The panel also advises that for the first six months of life, babies should be exclusively breastfed. Continued breastfeeding is recommended to the age of 12 months.
Between the ages of two and 21, the expert panel recommends that the primary beverage should be unsweetened, fat-free milk, while sweetened beverages should be limited.
That's because up to 90 percent of bone mass is acquired by the age of 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, making childhood and adolescence the most important time for building bone health.
Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, and TV time should be limited to one to two hours of quality programming a day.
Experts also prescribe that between the ages of 5 and 21, kids and young adults alike engage in vigorous physical activities like jogging or playing baseball at least one hour a day.