Screen Junior to diagnose the parents

The debate rages on whether all children should be screened for high cholesterol. A government panel with the longest name I think I’ve ever seen – the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents – recommends screening children at 9 to 11 years old and again at 17 to 21 years old.

The reason, of course, is the fact that 17 percent of children are obese and many acquire adult-like chronic conditions. Opponents correctly fear an avalanche of screening and lipid-lowering medicine by aggressive, well-meaning physicians. We do not know enough about the side effects of these medications in children, but they certainly are more risky than traditional-but-effective diet and exercise.

Oddly, proponents have a new novel defense. Apparently, children with high cholesterol or high blood pressure have parents with high risk of diabetes and heart disease. A Journal of Pediatrics study found that nearly half of 12-year-olds with unhealthy lipid profiles had parents who ultimately had heart attacks, strokes and procedures to clear arteries over the next 26 years. More than one-third developed diabetes.

Whether it is because of genes or faulty household health habits, cardiovascular disease apparently runs in many families.