Childhood obesity has doubled in the United States in the past 30 years.
Evidence has shown that childhood obesity often leads to increases in heart disease risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
When to start cholesterol screening
According to Dr. Michael Rocco, M.D. of Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute, screening in younger children can be beneficial.
“Cholesterol levels tend to drop in pre-puberty and early puberty,” said Dr. Rocco. “So earlier measurements may actually give you a better assessment of what those cholesterol levels may be like as an adult.”
Dr. Rocco said that some recommendations even call for screening in children as young as 2 years old in cases where one or more parents are being treated for high cholesterol or premature cardiovascular disease.
High cholesterol and future health
A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that one in five U.S. children have unhealthy cholesterol levels, with obese children carrying the highest risk.
“It may be a bigger problem than we previously recognized, which may be another reason to push toward more universal or early screening to help identify these children,” said Dr. Rocco.
Dr. Rocco said catching high cholesterol early enough in children may enable doctors to recommend lifestyle changes that can prevent them from having to battle high cholesterol issues as adults.