Cholesterol: Are Annual Pediatric Check-ups Enough?Danielle Sullivan
What is your child’s cholesterol? How about his LDL? Or HDL? Do you know?
If you don’t, relax, because most parents don’t know their child’s levels. But, government guidelines endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics are encouraging pediatricians to test children’s cholesterol level starting at age 9, and their reasons behind it make a lot of sense.
With the obesity rates steadily increasing, there is just cause to test when you consider that high cholesterol levels can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that two-thirds of American adults and 15 percent of children are overweight or obese. Furthermore, in certain states, the numbers for children rise to more than 30 percent.
However, some doctors are claiming that we don’t need to test every single child for high cholesterol. Instead, they feel that perhaps a more laid back approach should be utilized, and only children who are at high risk for high cholesterol should be tested.
There are others who also feel that doctors who have ties to drug companies will push medication on children, when they should really just encourage a better diet and more activity.
When a child is determined to be overweight or has an unhealthy diet, it might be easier to make the determination that a blood test is in order. But what about thin children who eat well?
My daughter, at age 9, endured a battery of blood tests to investigate why she had not been feeling well for a long time. One of the first things that came back was that she had high cholesterol. That was strange to hear, because she was a very healthy eater, loved veggies and salads, barely ate meat or junk food, and was very thin. A couple of months later, we learned that she had Hashimoto’s disease, which affects a person’s thyroid — and hers was compromised.
We didn’t understand why her cholesterol levels were high until we found a pediatric endocrinologist who explained to us that high cholesterol is a marker for a thyroid problem. In fact, if doctors see a thyroid problem, they should test for thyroid dysfunction. This would have saved my daughter many months of not being properly diagnosed. He also told us that she didn’t need to be treated for the cholesterol itself because once her thyroid became under control, those levels would naturally dip to normal amounts. Like promised, as her thyroid levels regulate, her cholesterol levels continue to fall.
Still, I’m not sure every child needs a cholesterol test, unless a problem has been identified or they are high risk. Of course, this begs the question: what other blood tests should children regularly undergo in light of our obesity epidemic? Is diabetes the next blood test that kids might need in the future?
Has your child been tested for cholesterol? Would you want to test him?
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