To look at 8-year-old Avery Eastman you would never know he has an underlying health problem.
A typical little boy, Avery loves to play ice hockey and run and play with friends. Last October a simple blood test revealed a problem when a pediatrician told Avery’s mother his cholesterol was a little high.
“And I’m like, ‘Well what is a little bit high?’ And she says 332 and I about fell off my chair because I know it is not supposed to be 180 or so,” Deri Eastman said.
Avery’s pediatrician in Janesville recommended that he go to the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Clinic at American Family Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Amy Peterson, a pediatric cardiologist, helped to create the clinic five years ago. It is the only cholesterol clinic of its kind in Wisconsin.
“The groups of children that our clinic is particularly focused on are children who inherit their high cholesterol. The reason for that is that we know children who have very high cholesterol from a young age are at a very high risk for early heart disease,” Peterson said.
Because that type of high cholesterol is hereditary, Peterson started looking at other family members. She found that Avery’s father and sister both had high cholesterol.
Peterson said 1 in every 250 children have high cholesterol that is inherited. For those children, it is important that they be diagnosed and treated.
“If people with this type of high cholesterol go without diagnosis or appropriate treatment about half of men and about 25 percent of women will have a heart attack by the age of 50 and we know that increases their risk of an early heart attack or stroke by about 100 fold,” Peterson said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 11.
With appropriate treatment children with high cholesterol can avoid health problems later in life.
“Knowledge is power. There are effective treatments available and we know that lowering a child’s cholesterol can be done safely and effectively with medication,” Peterson said.
In the five years, the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Clinic has existed they have treated approximately 1,500 children.