Screen­ing in­fants for heart dis­ease

The Sun (Malaysia) - - ZEST -

SCREEN­ING young chil­dren for high choles­terol as they re­ceive rou­tine vac­ci­na­tions could pre­vent hun­dreds of heart at­tacks in young adults each year, re­searchers in Bri­tain said.

Their study in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine aimed to un­cover a silent killer in young adults known as fa­mil­ial hy­per­c­holes­terolemia (FH), a ge­netic dis­or­der that of­ten leads to early heart dis­ease.

FH runs in fam­i­lies, and if left un­treated can raise the risk of heart dis­ease at a young age as much as 100 times.

In the largest screen­ing study to date, more than 10,000 chil­dren around one year old were tested for high choles­terol and ge­netic mu­ta­tions known to be as­so­ci­ated with FH at 92 fa­cil­i­ties across Eng­land.

Forty chil­dren tested pos­i­tive for FH at a rate of about one in 270 chil­dren.

Their par­ents were then con­tacted for screen­ing, re­veal­ing an ad­di­tional FH-pos­i­tive par­ent, the re­port said.

“Over­all, one per­son at high risk of early heart at­tack was iden­ti­fied for ev­ery 125 peo­ple tested,” it said.

Such screen­ing through­out Bri­tain could pre­vent about 600 heart at­tacks in peo­ple un­der the age of 40, ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers from Queen Mary Univer­sity of Lon­don’s Wolfson In­sti­tute of Preven­tive Medicine.

“This is the first demon­stra­tion that child-par­ent screen­ing works on a large scale,” lead re­searcher David Wald said.

“It’s the only screen­ing method that stands a rea­son­able chance of cov­er­ing the whole pop­u­la­tion and iden­ti­fy­ing those at high­est risk of an early heart at­tack.”

Once high-risk chil­dren are iden­ti­fied, they can take steps to lower choles­terol, in­clud­ing ex­er­cise, avoid­ing smok­ing, main­tain­ing a heathy diet, and – when older – tak­ing statin med­i­ca­tion.

“Now that we’ve demon­strated this as be­ing ef­fec­tive across Eng­land, the next step is for pub­lic health agen­cies to con­sider of­fer­ing this rou­tinely at the time of child­hood vac­ci­na­tion to test all chil­dren aged one to two years,” Wald said.

“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.” – AFP

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