An Associated Press news piece yesterday (http://news.yahoo.com/doctors-test-kids-cholesterol-age-11-203530834.html) announced that we’ll soon be screening kids as young as nine years for high serum cholesterol. The new guidelines emerged from an expert panel appointed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The guidelines are based on facts everyone agrees on:
— By the fourth grade, one of every eight U.S. children has high cholesterol, defined as a score of 200 or more.
— Half of children with high cholesterol will also have it as adults, raising their risk of heart disease.
— One third of U.S. children and teens are obese or overweight, which makes high cholesterol and diabetes more likely.
I agree, too. But why is this happening now? One micro-reason is genes: one out of every five hundred people has high cholesterol because of genetic makeup. All the rest, though, comes from—you guessed it—toxic diet and inadequate exercise.
In other words, we’ve discovered we’re developing serious disease earlier and earlier in our lives because of unhealthy behavior. We’re going to identify it by large-scale testing, and treat it, of course, with medications.
I have a few problems with this strategy. First, it redefines voluntary behavior as a medical diagnosis; second, it creates an entire new class of “patients” who will consume expensive medications and endure their side effects; and third, it legitimizes and even enables disease-causing behavior.
What amazes me about these guidelines is the degree to which the medical establishment docilely accepts them. We docs should instead be demanding effective plans for steering kids into healthier behaviors, emphasizing education and parenting.
Oh, my. I get so worked up about these things. Maybe I'm suffering from Inadequate Idiocy Tolerance Disorder (IITD, the silent killer). I need to calm down. A friend advised that I might increase my patience by remembering that we are the distant ancestors of an advanced civilization.