Question: What kinds of tests should my child have to screen for heart disease, and how will I know if he/she needs them?
Answer: There are a couple of simple things that can be done to screen for risk factors that can later result in coronary artery disease. One is a blood pressure, and many, many doctors do not obtain blood pressures on children, and parents could ask for blood pressures to be done, and if the child is hypertensive, or has a high blood pressure, then that is going to ultimately be a risk factor.
The other is obesity or overweight. As you know, there's an epidemic of overweight or obesity in this country right now, and obesity is definitely a risk factor for coronary disease in adulthood, and can lead to even type 2 diabetes in children that would be a risk factor for coronary disease in adulthood.
And finally, if there's a strong family history for early heart attacks or coronary disease in younger people, or even sometimes if there's not, screening the child's cholesterol level just like an adult would have their cholesterol levels screened can identify children that are at higher risk. There's a rare form of high cholesterol that occurs in children that can even lead to heart attacks in later childhood and early adulthood.
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