MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – An expert panel of government officials recently released new cardiovascular disease screening guidelines for youth based in part on a CARDIAC (Coronary Artery Risk Detection In Appalachian Communities) Project research study, which was published in the April 2010 issue of the journal “Pediatrics.”

“We are proud that studies conducted in West Virginia have helped to shape policy and guidelines applicable to not only our own state but the nation as well,” William Neal, M.D., director of CARDIAC and James H. Walker Chair of Preventive Cardiology at West Virginia University, said. “Without the decade-long support of the executive and legislative branches of the state government, we would not have been able to have this impact.”

Previous guidelines recommended checking cholesterol in children with a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease. The new guidelines recommend that all children have cholesterol screening rather than targeting those for whom there is a family history of premature heart disease.

According to the CARDIAC study, approximately 1 percent of individuals have moderately to severely elevated cholesterol that is likely to cause early heart disease during adulthood. The study, which included more than 20,000 fifth-grade students, showed that more than one-third (37 percent) of children with levels high enough to warrant consideration of cholesterol lowering medication would have been missed by selective screening criteria.

The authors emphasized that the first line of intervention for these children is lifestyle modification, such as a healthy diet and at least one hour of physical activity daily.

On Nov. 12, the “Wall Street Journal” reported that the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) now says that blood cholesterol should be checked between ages 9 and 11 and then be repeated between ages 17-21. The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed this recommendation.

Since 1998, the state-funded CARDIAC Project has screened more than 100,000 West Virginia children in school settings for cardiovascular disease and other health risk factors.

For information about the CARDIAC Project go to

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
sh: 11-16-11