Report finds one in five kids has cholesterol problem; Doctors urge screening

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- You might not think your kids could have high cholesterol. But a new government report finds one in five children and teens has a cholesterol problem.

The Tucker brothers, Hunter and Peyton, try to stay active whether it's at Liberty High School or in the great outdoors. It's one way they're fighting a silent enemy.

"My dad's side has a long history of it and stuff," said Peyton.

Hunter added, "It's tough taking it serious all the time because there's a lot of food that you want to eat."

Both boys have high cholesterol that puts them at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes earlier in life.

"Their uncle just had a heart attack at 53 so you know, it's a big deal," said their mother, Lynn Tucker.

Heredity is one huge factor. But doctors say the obesity epidemic is also behind the new numbers showing one in five kids has a cholesterol problem.

They say increased screening is a factor, too. The nation's pediatricians have new screening recommendations.

"Every child should be screened at 9 to 11 years of age and again from 17 to 21 years of age regardless of risk factors," said Dr. Jonathan Wagner of Children's Mercy Hospital.

Dr. Wagner says when the numbers are high, exercise and changes in eating habits are the first treatments. But he says at least 200,000 kids in America have levels so high they need statin medicines. The effects of statin use over many decades aren't known yet, so Children's Mercy is doing research.

"To get them that just-right dose medication tailored to the individual patient," said Dr. Wagner.

The Tucker brothers haven't had to go on statins yet. They visit Children's Mercy twice a year to get their numbers checked and to get advice on diet and exercise.

"I don't want my son having a stroke at 17 or 20 or having a heart attack. Because if we don't monitor it those are the possibilities," said Lynn Tucker.

The government report finds kids who are obese are three times more likely to have a cholesterol problem than those of normal weight.