20% of American Kids Have High Cholesterol

January 25/Pakistan/Right Vision News -- Some 20% of U.S. children and teens have abnormal lipid levels, an indication of too much bad cholesterol, too little good cholesterol or high triglycerides, federal health officials report.

These abnormal levels can raise the risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Obesity may be linked to these high levels," said report author Ashleigh May, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC. "Forty-three percent of obese youth are eligible for therapeutic lifestyle counseling, and 22%t of overweight youth were also eligible," she added.

Doctors need to be aware of lipid screening guidelines and treatments, especially for obese and overweight youth, May said, because abnormal lipid levels can lead to heart disease down the road.

"We really need to identify youth early who have these abnormal lipid levels, so we can reduce their risk for later heart disease," May said.

The report is published in the January 22 issue of the CDC's "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report." Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, May's team looked at lipid levels among 3,125 youths aged 12-19 who participated in the survey from 1999-2006. Specifically, the researchers looked at levels of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol; HDL, or "good," cholesterol; and triglycerides. May and her colleagues found that children and teens who were overweight or obese were more likely to have abnormal lipid levels compared with youths who were normal weight.

In fact, 22% of overweight children and teens and 43% of obese children and teens had abnormal lipid levels, compared with 14% of their normal-weight counterparts.

In addition, 32% of these young people are candidates for lipid screening, according to American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. The guidelines recommend screening for young people with a family history of high cholesterol or premature cardiovascular disease, or having at least one major risk factor for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, or being overweight or obese. The researchers also found:
* 24% of boys and 16% of girls had at least one abnormal lipid level.
* 9% of 14- and 15-year-olds and 10% of 18- and 19-year-olds had low HDL cholesterol, compared with 5% of 12- and 13-year-olds.
* 8% of whites had low levels of HDL cholesterol, and 12% had high triglycerides compared with black youths (5% and 4%, respectively).Typically, heart disease develops in adulthood.

However, its risk factors, such as abnormal lipid levels and overweight/obesity, often emerge during childhood and adolescence.

Over the past 30 years, obesity among American's children has increased from 5% to more than 17%, according to the CDC.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, "There is growing evidence that atherosclerotic vascular disease can begin at an early age and that treatment of abnormal blood lipid levels in youth may reduce the lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease."

Current guidelines recommend lipid screening among obese youth, Fonarow noted. "It is highly notable that one in five youths in the U.S. have abnormal lipid levels and among obese youth, nearly half had at least one abnormal lipid level," he said. "There is a clear need for aggressive preventive public health measures such as providing quality nutrition at schools, promoting physical activity in schools and the community, and implementing childhood obesity prevention programs," Fonarow added.

Detecting these abnormal lipid levels can lead to appropriate counseling of children and their families, he said. Only a few would need cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins, he added.

"Therapeutic lifestyle modification with healthy eating, exercise and a goal of achieving a healthy body weight is the foundation of management of abnormal lipid levels in youth," Fonarow said. Less than 1% of youth would require statin medications based on current guideline recommendations."

From the February 1, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition