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FOX Medical Team

More children struggling with high cholesterol

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

Think cholesterol is something only adults need to worry about?

So did 10-year-old Briannah Moore's parents.

When she was just three, Briannah's pediatrician Dr. Linda McCormick with Carousel Pediatrics in Carrollton asked her mom Angel an odd question: Could she check Briannah's cholesterol?

Angel Moore says, "I thought it was kind of crazy. I'm sure I looked at Dr. McCormick like, "Okay, why are we testing her for high cholesterol?"

Remember, Briannah was three. Angel's cholesterol was normal. But, Angel says, "Come to find out hers was really high."

So high, Briannah was referred to the Sibley Heart Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Angel Moore now thinks Briannah inherited the problem from her father, who, turns out, had undiagnosed high cholesterol but had never been tested.

Dr. McCormick says as American kids grow heavier, elevated cholesterol - a risk factor for heart disease - is becoming more and more common. Even typical-weight kids can have a cholesterol problem. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children with a family history starting at 3 and 4, and screening all kids again between 9 and 11.

But Dr. McCormick says a lot of parents don't see the need for screening. She says, "I've had some parents refuse for us to do it, because they say, "My child is of normal weight, how could they possibly have a problem with their cholesterol now?"

But McCormick says it is a "silent" but very real problem, "And you're not going to have any symptoms of that, until you're much older, and you have your first heart attack. So the danger is that it's kind of one of those silent killers, the danger of not knowing your child's cholesterol is not having the opportunity to intervene.

If your child has high cholesterol - or "good" and "bad" levels that are out-of-whack, pediatricians recommend dietary changes, like switching from high-fat to high-fiber foods, with lots of fruit and vegetables.

And, getting more active can boost protective cholesterol levels in kids.

But, sometimes, children like Briannah need a grown-up fix. She's been taking a statin medication for more than a year. And her mother says she may need another one to control her levels. But, knowledge is power. Briannah's mother says doctors feel confident that they can lower her risk of developing heart disease in adulthood – by intervening right now.

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