Cholesterol Screening is Recommended for Children Ages 9-11

According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children should be screened for high cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 11.  

The findings of a recent study revealed that 1 in 3 healthy children who had their cholesterol levels checked were found to have high cholesterol. For years, parents have felt reassured that their children were not in danger of having high cholesterol.

The classic belief is that kids can eat whatever they want and that problems such as obesity and high cholesterol were issues for adults only. That may have been true in the past. But, as high-fat foods are becoming cheaper and more widely available, kids of all socioeconomic levels are eating more fatty foods than ever before. And while computers and other devices keep kids entertained, children of today do not have the same normal daily physical playtime and ‘youthful’ metabolism as children of the past. Kids are becoming overweight and obese at a younger age, and surprisingly, kids are developing high blood cholesterol levels, which is the reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending routine cholesterol screening for all children between the ages of 9 and 11. 

What is the problem with high cholesterol in children? 

Long-term high blood cholesterol levels cause slowly progressive disease of the blood vessels in the heart and brain, which leads to heart attack and stroke.

Find out more about the cerebrovascular disease here.

Furthermore, high cholesterol levels promote the formation of blood clots that interrupt blood flow to vital organs such as the brain, causing a stroke.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the latest medical research, diseases such as stroke can happen earlier that we previously thought because risk factors, such as high cholesterol, can start to do damage to the body as early as the childhood years.


Why do kids have high cholesterol? 

Kids can have high blood cholesterol levels due to hereditary conditions that affect a child's metabolism. These conditions, such as Familial Hypercholesterolemia, are not common. Children who have medical conditions that cause them to have high cholesterol are often given prescription medications to lower blood cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol in children used to be a sign of a hereditary metabolic disease. However, new research is finding a trend that high cholesterol can also be a problem for otherwise healthy children. Healthy kids develop high cholesterol levels as a result of lifestyle factors such as a high-fat diet, a low fiber diet and lack of physical exercise. Most children with high cholesterol that is not due to a metabolic disease are advised to work on attaining normal cholesterol levels by changing these lifestyle factors and not by taking prescription medications, which can have side effects.  

What should you do?

As a parent, the first step you can take is to make sure that your child gets the recommend cholesterol screening and follow up to get the results so that you know if your child has elevated blood cholesterol levels. If he does, use these guidelines to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats in food.

If your child has high cholesterol, don't be afraid to set some rules about healthy eating. Children adjust quickly if the rules are not too extreme and if they are given healthy choices that they like.

And, if your kids have a tendency to sit around too much, it is also important to encourage your kids to be active- even if you have to play with them yourself by tossing a ball around or biking together. Physical exercise, even in moderation, can lower cholesterol levels in healthy children.


2016 Recommendations for Preventive Pediatric Health Care, COMMITTEE ON PRACTICE AND AMBULATORY MEDICINE and, BRIGHT FUTURES PERIODICITY SCHEDULE WORKGROUP, Pediatrics, January 2016

Universal cholesterol screening of children in community-based ambulatory pediatric clinics,Wilson DP, Davis S, Matches S, Shah D, Leung-Pineda V, Mou M, Hamilton L, McNeal CJ, Bowman WP, Journal of Clinical Lipidology, October 2015

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