The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines on how infants, children and teens should be screened during checkups.
Part of the changes includes incorporating newborn testing for congenital heart disease before leaving the hospital. Children between the ages of 9 and 11 are to undergo routine cholesterol tests. For those aged between 15 and 30 months, tests for iron-deficiency anemia are to be conducted. Teens, on the other hand, are to be tested for HIV and depression. 11 to 21-year-olds will be asked a set of questions on their moods and will also be tested for substance abuse.
Such changes were made in order to detect risk factors for heart disease early on, as well as to enable pediatricians to recommend proper lifestyle and diet changes to certain patients.
“This change was made because we now know that children are at greatest risk for familial hyperlipidemia and heart disease, as adults often don’t have identifiable risk factors,” explained Dr. Geoffrey Simon, a pediatrician, in an interview with Live Science. Hyperlipidemia is the most common genetic disorder of increased blood fats, according to nlm.nih.gov. “Some of these children look perfectly healthy, so it’s important to identify these kids early in life.”
As for parents, doctors advise to schedule regular visits to their kids' pediatricians, as these routine check-ups can be preventive. “Sometimes, with the older kids, it’s like ‘Oh well, we’ll come in when they need a tetanus booster or when they need a form filled in for sports,’” says Simon. “There’s really a lot more going on in a preventive visit. The goal is to intervene before things get to a crisis point.”