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The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute now recommends that children ages 9 and 11 should have their first cholesterol check. The test should be repeated between ages 17 and 21.

The recommendations come as growing biological evidence shows conditions that result in heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases begin in childhood, though they might not be evident until middle age.

Because one in three children are considered to be overweight, and 17 % are obese, knowing a child’s cholesterol level will be helpful for the child’s doctor. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the recommendations.

In most cases, high cholesterol is addressed with improving diets and increasing daily exercise. Less than 1 % of children diagnosed with high cholesterol would take a statin.