Cholesterol test in toddlers could prevent heart attacks
Checking toddlers’ cholesterol levels when they have vaccinations could stop hundreds of heart attacks every year, new research claims.
Scientists at Queen Mary University in London believe this simple test could identify around 2,500 kids each year who may have inherited a health condition that increases their risk of heart problems.
While high cholesterol is often linked to an unhealthy lifestyle in later life, one in 270 children are born with a genetic problem known as familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), causing high cholesterol from a young age.
To make matters worse, those who are diagnosed are 10 times more likely to suffer a heart attack by the time they reach 40 years old than those who aren’t. While injections and statin pills are often prescribed to tackle the issue, without knowing they have high cholesterol someone could miss out on vital treatments years before the heart attack actually happens.
By testing toddlers for the FH gene, researchers suggest they could begin medication from their teenager years onwards.
They tested 10,000 children in England for the gene and concluded that 600 heart attacks in the under-40s could be prevented if this check was carried out across England and Wales.
“This is an example of an effective screening strategy being combined with routine vaccination, which has clear advantages,” the study's main researcher, Professor David Wald, said in a statement.
“No extra clinic visits are needed and uptake is high because parents are already focused on the future health of their children and the family as a whole. The one-stop service requires no new clinical infrastructure and is simple and inexpensive to implement."
Findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.