Wednesday, July 9, 2008

High Cholesterol Kids

New guidelines for the assessment and management of high cholesterol levels in children have just been published in the July issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. ("Lipid Screening and Cardiovascular Health in Childhood").
A tsunami of controversy has followed the publication of the guidelines, which recommend that some children, as young as eight years old, may need to take oral statin drugs to lower their cholesterol levels and to prevent future cardiovascular disease.

Statins are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. and have been in use since the 1980's in adults. However, little data exists on the effects of their long- term use, and many physicians and public health professionals expressed shock and alarm at the prospect of prescribing a drug regimen for children, which could endure for decades, without adequate studies.

Most shocking and alarming is the fact that we now have children as young as eight years old walking around with highly elevated cholesterol levels which used to be seen only in much older, often obese, adults. The AAP Journal article refers to children with low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels as high as 190 mg. An optimal level is considered to be 100 mg or lower.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and illness in the U.S., and the reasons for this are no mystery. A stroll around your local supermarket, shopping mall, and school cafeteria will provide ample evidence of the dismal state of American nutrition. Human beings have evolved many different eating styles over the thousands of years that we have wandered the earth in search of food. But it should be obvious by now that the standard American way of eating combined with a sedentary lifestyle is not supportive of good health for adults or children.

Our high cholesterol kids will need much more than prescription medications to provide them with the health and well being which should be their birthright.