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Importance of Cholesterol Screening

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

While we have been on the topic of screening, let’s look at another area, cholesterol and triglycerides. Once again there is a lot of news about the appropriate time to screen children for lipid abnormalities. The medical community always likes a lively discussion with good scientific evidence, but the AAP, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force do not have a clear consensus on screening in children.

I think that the most important issue is knowing your patient’s family history. We pediatricians should all be aware of the increase in cardiovascular disease in this country, and should continue to ask parents their cholesterol and lipid levels, if they take medication and their parent’s history. In other words, we need to ask about grandparents too. I think this is fairly routine, but as a child gets older, they need to know their own family history so that they are informed (I learned this lesson from our eldest son when he told his “adult doctor” that he did not think he had any disease etc in his family, what did he think that cholesterol pill was that his Dad took everyday?)

If there is a history of high lipids in the family it is probably worth screening your children somewhere between the ages of two – 10 years of age. Children with high BMI’s should also be routinely screened. Which screening test your pediatrician decides to do may depend on your own physician. There continues to be data emerging about screening using total cholesterol alone, versus fractionated cholesterol.

Next time you visit your pediatrician, discuss your family history and any changes in family history that may have occurred. Discuss the possibility of cholesterol screening for your children. Another number to pay attention too.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon!

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