Research published online on Monday, July 12, in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests that the current national guidelines for checking cholesterol levels in children may not identify all children with high cholesterol. The guidelines specify that family history of early heart disease is the main marker used for cholesterol testing.

William Neal, M.D., of the West Virginia University School of Medicine, and his colleagues surveyed more than 20,000 children and found that 36 percent of the children with high cholesterol would have been missed using these guidelines.

The researchers concluded that screening all children for cholesterol, rather than just those with a family history, will identify more children with abnormal cholesterol levels and prevent premature cardiac events.

These children were screened as participants of Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities Project, of which Dr. Neal is the director. “The goal for these children is to follow a healthy diet and get more exercise in order to reduce their risk factors, including cholesterol, for early heart disease. If we had not identified those children, with severely elevated LDL cholesterol, who may need cholesterol lowering medication, they would have remained at risk for early heart disease as an adult,” Neal said.

The study has attracted attention worldwide, with reports Monday in the Wall Street Journal and on ABC News, and Internet stories on, Reuters, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.

The CARDIAC Project started in 1998, and was soon established in elementary schools statewide to fight the high rate of heart disease and diabetes in the children of West Virginia. It has also become a key component in fighting childhood obesity. CARDIAC’s primary source of funding is the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health.

“Forty-seven percent of fifth graders in this state are overweight. Six percent are morbidly obese, and nearly half of these children may become diabetic,” Dr. Neal said. “For the first time in history, our children will have shorter life expectancies than their parents unless we reverse the prevalence of obesity in WV. The CARDIAC Project is making great strides, working to change those statistics.”

The study is titled, “Universal Versus Targeted Blood Cholesterol Screening Among Youth: The CARDIAC Project.” and was written by Susan K. Ritchie, R.N., M.P.H. of WVU, Neal, and several colleagues. It is available online now, and will appear in print next month.

To read the article, see (Subscription is required.)



CONTACT: Kim Fetty, HSC News Service

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.