New guidelines for cholesterol testing

More children should be screened for high cholesterol before puberty, beyond those with a family history of problems, according to wide-ranging new guidelines expected from government-appointed experts who are trying to prevent heart disease later in life.

The new advice will be presented Sunday at an American Heart Association conference by some members of a panel for the National
Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Any call for wider screening is likely to raise concern about overdiagnosing a condition that may not cause problems for decades, if ever. Yet studies suggest that half of children with high cholesterol will also have it as adults, and it's one of the best-known causes of clogged arteries that can lead to heart attacks.

Until now, major medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have advised screening only children with a family history of early heart disease or high cholesterol and those who are obese or have diabetes or high blood pressure.

However, a West Virginia study tested more than 20,000 fifth graders and found that many with high cholesterol would have been missed by the targeted screening approach used now, said Dr. Stephen Daniels, who led the panel that wrote the new guidelines.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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