LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled in the United States. Because of this trend, more children than ever before are at an increased risk of developing heart disease risk factors like type two diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending that all children between nine and 11 years of age be screened for high cholesterol due to the growing number of obese children.
"This is a new area for pediatricians because we have not routinely done screening like adults. Adults just know that they should routinely be screened," said pediatrician Dr. Edward Legako.
Dr. Legako says some children are born with high cholesterol and these kid's parents tend to have high cholesterol as well. For men under 55 and women under 65 who have a cholesterol of more than 240, those parents need to have their children screened as early as two years of age.
"We're looking for those unique children that parents have genetic high cholesterol and abnormal lipid profiles. So, we want to catch those children as early as possible and there are those children out there," Dr. Legako said.
Dr. Legako says for children with high cholesterol, the best course of treatment hasn't yet been determined. He says there are centers where children as young as two years of age are being treated for high cholesterol with the use of statins.
"I agree, it can be somewhat controversial, but there are those places out there that are treating children and we all feel that it is important that if we have high cholesterol in a child who is young, such a 2- or 3-year-old, we should refer those children to a specialist," Dr. Legako said.
Dr. Legako says since cholesterol screening in children is so new, there are no long-term studies of the effects of long-term use of statins in children. He says that's why children currently taking the medications are part of studies.
"Although we do know probably the long-term effects of not doing anything...is probably detrimental to their health in the long run, maybe not as children but maybe as young adults," Dr. Legako said.
Dr. Legako says for those children who do not have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, they need to live a heart healthy lifestyle by eating five servings of fruits and veggies each day, limiting sugar intake, getting at least one meaningful hour of exercise a day and limiting screen time to under two hours a day.
In other health news, be sure to mark your calendar for the free skin cancer screenings at the Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center in Lawton. It will be held on Saturday, May 14, from 8 a.m. until noon. To schedule an appointment, call 580-250-6565.