Kids and Cholesterol

Dr. Richard Besser discusses new guidelines for screening.
5:19 | 11/14/11

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Transcript for Kids and Cholesterol
High cholesterol is something you probably thought you didn't have to worry about -- -- later in life but. New guidelines from some of the nation's top doctors may have you thinking otherwise the American academy of pediatrics. Is suggesting children as young as denying be screened for high cholesterol so joining us to discuss his ABC. Chief medical editor doctor Richard at best they're rich thanks so much for joining us. Is this. A big deal -- If it is I mean this is a big step we have been checking children for cholesterol if they had a couple conditions if they had a family history. -- having a heart attack at a young age or -- history of high cholesterol. And the reason you look at those groups is because there's a certain condition children could be -- -- Where they don't process cholesterol properly they can have very high cholesterol -- And that can lead to heart disease at a young age and so that was the reason we we used to -- of send another talking about testing all children that they're talking about all children between the ages of 9/11. Having the first cholesterol tested. And the reason for that is that. We find that family history isn't good enough and you can miss some children who actually have cholesterol they could be at a dangerous level. There was a big study they came out last year from West Virginia where they looked out across the board. They asked people about whether they had relatives of heart disease and high cholesterol. And what they found was it didn't really help predict which children that high -- from which didn't. And because of that doctors said we need a baseline level to look at. OK but. According to Centers for Disease Control 80% of children age twelve to nineteen have high cholesterol are we talking about the kind of high cholesterol that could lead to a heart attack. For most children now -- cut he so you know you want to get this baseline level of of cholesterol if it's not sky high. What they're gonna say to you is your child as has a high cholesterol we're gonna wanna follow this get another level when -- over 1717. To 21. But in the meantime focus on their diet focus on exercise you you really start with these issues from birth. -- breastfeeding can actually reduce the likelihood that your child will have high cholesterol I didn't know that yet so from first -- kind of -- -- high cholesterol in the dietary choices you make as -- its -- your baby is -- isn't as they start to grow up going for. Diets are low in saturated fats can reduce likely to do you have high cholesterol. It's it's it's really you know. We think about the epidemic of heart disease and obesity in in in adults it begins with childhood and so this is saying. You know looking at these issues is an issue that should take place. When you do when your child is done not starting when they're in their twenties and thirties -- -- -- -- high cholesterol with at that point it's it's too late too prevent having that the first place. You know I have a 25 year old brother who's been on Staten since he was when you know who's been -- on stents and -- when -- two. Should kids that are teenagers. Be on Staten as well. This is the part that really worries me about this and and I mean. I don't think that children young children. Need to be on -- except if they have one of these genetic conditions it gives them -- high cholesterol. And I also think the pediatric community is very wary about putting kids on these drugs in the studies in children so they do work to lower cholesterol. But those studies have only been done for a couple years is no long term studies to say are these drugs safe if you're -- -- be on them for your entire lie. And and that worries me is a pediatrician -- get a baseline level is fine but if your doctor says -- -- well it's time while we -- Staten. I would ask a lot of questions before allowing my child to go on one and as a pediatrician. I don't think that putting it on -- on a Staten I would refer them to a specialist if I thought that their level was high enough that they needed. A drug for life I don't think that's something that. General pediatricians and -- doctors should be or are very comfortable -- Why between nine and eleven that's a great question. -- your level of cholesterol changes through childhood it would it will swing. Before puberty is a period where it's fairly stable when your child goes through puberty levels go -- often often go down and then they go up again. And -- get a baseline nine to eleven before -- goes through puberty is good. Getting it again when they're kind of just entering adulthood seventeen to 21 is also that -- you can see between the two. Are they on a trajectory it's gonna give them pilot and again we're talking about every child in America and this is a simple blood test it's a simple blood test no it doesn't have to be -- fasting test -- -- test. That they can do just the way they would measure a letter measure blood count. And what they look at -- something cause though the look at the total cholesterol but then they look at something called the total non HDL cholesterol. And what it does is it looks at that part of your cholesterol that's been mainly that low density cholesterol that's associated with heart disease. And they can do that and on testing sample. If that level is high. They have probably do a full panel -- the an adult would and for that your child would need to pass before having -- done. But fallen off every -- between nine and eleven testing for -- Melissa big deal. It's a big deal they're going to be studying this -- time to make sure that leads to improved health and not just more children on Madison. Doctor -- -- thank you so lots there was a pleasure.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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