News Roundup: 1 in 5 Kids have Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels; Less Than Half of Population Have Flu Vaccine

One in five American children, or 21 percent, have unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, a condition that carries a higher risk of heart disease and stroke as they become adults, according to a new study.

Older children and teenagers had the highest cholesterol readings, with almost 27 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds registering at least one unhealthy measure. That’s the conclusion of a review of 2011-2014 federal health data compiled by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The review was performed by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC.

Obesity helped fuel these trends, the CDC concluded. More than 43 percent of children who were obese had some form of abnormal cholesterol reading, compared to less than 14 percent of normal-weight children.

Generally, rates of abnormal cholesterol readings increased as kids aged. A little more than 6 percent of children, aged six to eight, had high levels of bad cholesterol. But that figure shot up to 12 percent among kids 16 to 19 years of age who recorded more than one abnormally high reading, the CDC said.

Unhealthy cholesterol levels can result in arteries beginning the process of becoming blocked with hardening “plaques” that can cause heart attacks and strokes later in life..

The CDC findings support recommendations to start screening young children for cholesterol. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screenings for all children age 9-11.

Kids can inherit a genetic form of high cholesterol, known as familial hypercholesterolemia. But the biggest cause of obesity in kids is poor diet and lack of regular exercise. Too many sugary drinks and too much fatty foods can worsen cholesterol levels in both kids and adults.

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— John Fernandez


Less Than Half of Americans Vaccinated Against Flu 

While more than 140 million doses of the flu vaccine distributed, only 39 percent of Americans have reported getting a vaccine so far this year, accounting for about three out of every five people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The number of flu cases reported to the CDC has been relatively low since the season began in October.  Numbers are expected to increase over the holidays and after the new year. The flu season normally peaks in February.

Last year, there were more than 970,000 hospital admissions for flu-related illnesses, making it the highest year on record for hospitalizations. People over the age of 65 accounted for 78 percent of the hospitalizations, marking another record high for this age population.

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get an annual vaccination against the flu, with very few exceptions. Common complications that can result from the flu include pneumonia, bronchitis, ear and sinus infections. Vaccination is especially important for certain people, including pregnant women, older people and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or asthma.

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— Tanya Racoobian Walton

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