Heart Disease: Battling Risk Factors in Children
Welcome to this month’s For Your Child newsletter. Our topic: Fewer children need statins for heart prevention. When Dr. Earl Ford read that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended children as young as eight be given cholesterol-lowering statins, he decided to check on the numbers.
His study, published in Circulation, an online journal, concludes that less than one percent of American children, age 12 to 17, need to take medication to lower cholesterol. Dr. Ford is a medical officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, but his reaction to the recommendation was the same as many parents – puzzlement.
He used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, from 1999 to 2006, which had information on almost 10,000 young people ages 6 to 17. Test results for LDL, or bad cholesterol, were also included for 2,700 adolescents, ages 12 to 17. The Academy guidelines suggest that statins be considered for children with no risk factors other than cholesterol readings of 190 or higher. Statins are also suggested for children with diabetes who have a reading of 130 or higher. For children with risk factors such as obesity or smoking, a reading of 160 or higher suggested statin use. Analyzing the numbers, Dr. Ford concluded that statin therapy would be warranted for less than one percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17, a total of 200,000 in the U.S.
American Heart Association guidelines call for selective screening in children with a family history of high cholesterol and early heart disease. The first line of treatment for these children should be lifestyle changes, the guidelines say, such as healthier eating and more physical activity. The Academy agrees with that approach, says Dr. Stephen Daniels, a pediatrician and member of the guideline committee. He believes doctors should focus their efforts on changing lifestyle factors before considering medication. This is true for adults, but especially true for children.
The new report doesn’t alter the guidelines, notes Dr. Daniels, but it might provide peace of mind for some parents. The report does show that the number of adolescents needing medication is relatively small. The Academy doesn’t recommend routine cholesterol screening for all children, only those at high risk or with cardiovascular problems.
For more information, always consult your child’s doctor. Thank you for listening. Please visit our website for information on health and wellness topics.