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Recent recommendations to give cholesterol drugs to children as young as 8 years old have sparked a lot of reaction from parents and doctors. But which children would be best served by these drugs?
With the problem of childhood obesity rising across the country, parents are growing more concerned about the health of their kids.
Primary Children's Medical Center Director of Nutrition Support, Dr. Dan Jackson, said, "People don't always want to give their kids medications or go into surgery, but they are desperate enough that they want to do something. Lifestyle changes and diet changes are extremely hard."
With the rise in obesity, Dr. Jackson says pediatricians couldn't just sit back and not treat diseases that go with it.
"The early heart disease, these early changes, early atherosclerosis, the fatty streaks and the plaques in the arteries begin early in childhood and is a progressive lesion. It doesn't go away," he said.
The new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are two-fold. First, children must be screened for problems early. Second, they recommend medicine for kids as young as 8 who need it. Jackson says the kids who need them will have a score of 190 or more in low density lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol.
"That would be a child tat maybe has a total cholesterol of 250 or 300," Dr. Jackson said.
If a child has other risk factors, like diabetes, kids could use these drugs if they have a lower bad cholesterol level. Jackson says genetics plays a big part in cholesterol levels, so even skinny kids can have high cholesterol. Researchers have looked into short term effects of drugs like Lipitor, Pravacol, and Zocor on children, and they work well.
"But, what we don't have is data looking at the long term outcome of starting someone on medications at age 8, and, say, following them through to age 30 or 40," he said.
However, using these drugs would only lower the bad kind of cholesterol. The best way to raise the good cholesterol is through good old diet and exercise. For some kids, that's a lot to ask.
Treehouse Athletic Club Youth Director Kensie Brown said, "You have a lot of kids that are just sedative, you know. It's not their thing to run around."
Brown says other kids may not feel coordinated enough to exercise. She says there are some tricks to get kids to work out without the appearance of working out.
"You can get them to be motivated to participate, to play to the extent that they want to, or they're comfortable with, even if it's at a lower lever, they're still participating," she said.
Brown says tag and relay races work well to get kids to play.