Does it help or hurt children to know they have high cholesterol? We’re about to find out.
New guidelines from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute say every child should be screened for high cholesterol once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21.
Intended primarily as a way to identify the 1 in 500 kids who have a genetic predisposition to dangerously high cholesterol levels called familial hypercholesterolemia, universal screening will also identify millions more whose cholesterol levels are a little high but who aren’t likely to develop premature heart disease.
For those kids, being labeled a child with high cholesterol could have psychological side effects, says Matthew Gillman, director of the obesity prevention program and a professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School. He co-authored a recent article in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, that looked at the pros and cons of universal screening.