Posted: Feb 19, 2012 2:04 PM by Jennifer Horbelt
Updated: Feb 20, 2012 7:20 AM
You may have been screened for high cholesterol. It's even possible your child has been screened due to a family history. Soon, though, all kids may be screened. New recommendations from an expert panel brought together by The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute say all kids between the ages of nine and 11, and 17 and 21 should get the test.
The idea is to curb heart disease and stroke, and even childhood obesity. Colorado ranks 29th in the nation for childhood obesity, according to healthyamericans.org. Still, 14.2% of the kids in our state are considered obese or overweight (for an interactive map, click here).
"It's an acronym that stands for Mind, Exercise, Nutrition and Do It!" Linda Famula, with the YMCA Downtown Colorado Springs, said.
She's talking about the MEND Program, and it's getting local kids moving.
"On your mark, get set, go!" one of the MEND Program assistants yells to a group of kids during exercise hour.
Famula says mend is all about teaching kids, and even their parents, how to live a healthy lifestyle.
"The kids that come to the program have been identified as above a healthy weight," Famula said. "It's a huge problem."
Dr. Elizabeth Ehrhardt with Pueblo's Stepping Stones Pediatrics agrees, and recommends the values MEND teaches for patients struggling with childhood obesity.
"Just getting a kid into an exercise routine, or onto a sport, can really make a big difference," Dr. Ehrhardt said, adding she works with families on shopping smart at the grocery store.
She also says weight isn't always an indicator of high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and other problems later in life. Family history is one reason doctors currently screen young kids considered at risk.
"But now, the new thing is to have universal screening between ages 9 and 11, and 17 and 21," Dr. Ehrhardt said, referring to the new recommendations from an expert panel with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
So, even children who appear healthy would get screened.
"We are looking for the predisposition and the risk factors that are gonna' give them heart attack in their 30's, 40's and 50's," Dr. Ehrhardt said of the purpose of cholesterol screening in kids.
"It's another tool that they can use to catch the problem at an early stage," Famula said of why she thinks universal screening may be a good thing.
Not everyone agrees with universal cholesterol screening in kids. Some doctors argue it's too expansive and expensive to test all kids, and that it might lead to too many children needlessly being put on cholesterol lowering medications.