Several months ago, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital released the results of a study that assessed
the heart health of participants between the ages of 10 and 22, and concluded that “teenagers must
control cardiovascular risk factors in adolescence or face ‘accelerated arterial aging’ by their early
The study found that the ratio of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) to HDL (good cholesterol) in
children is a measure of the likelihood of “stiff or damaged arteries” later in life. The higher the ratio,
the higher the risk of arterial rigidity, and consequently the higher the risk of heart attack or stroke
later in life, according to the study findings.
The good news is that the testing is a relatively simple, low-risk process, involving a lipid panel or
lipid profile to measure the four types of lipids (fats) found in the blood. Where the medical
community typically recommended testing for children with high-risk factors, like a family history of
heart problems, recent studies like the Cincinnati study are concluding that heart disease starts early
Coupled with youth obesity—about one third of children and teens are obese or overweight—and
statistics indicating that 10 to 13 percent of children and teens already have high (above 200)
cholesterol levels, medical professionals have stepped up efforts to prevent problems later in life.
The bad news is that the medical community is not in complete agreement over the suitability of
early-age cholesterol screening, citing concerns on the use of statins (an enzyme inhibitor that
reduces cholesterol) in adolescents, the impact of preventive diets on developing bodies, and the
potential for over-diagnosing a condition that may or may not generate problems later in life.
So, as a parent concerned for the present and future health of your children, what do you do?
Without question, the most prudent course of action is to consult with a trusted pediatrician or family
doctor and reach a course of action based on these discussions.
Also, it’s universally a good idea to focus on the physical health of your child. According to the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, “An obese teenager has over a 70% greater risk of
becoming an obese adult,” and the American Heart Association clearly links obesity to risk of heart
disease. So, you can be an agent-of-change on your child’s behalf, promoting nutrition and physical
exercise as a means to achieving good health.