Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All kids should have cholesterol tests: study

Tens of thousands of kids may benefit from cholesterol-lowering medication, but no one would know because screening guidelines exclude too many children, U.S. doctors said Monday.

In a report published in the journal Pediatrics, they call for screening of all children, expanding one set of current recommendations that target only those whose parents or grandparents have heart disease or high cholesterol. Another existing set of guidelines doesn't call for screening in any children.

Screening all children would "identify a number of children who are of very significant risk of premature heart disease," said Dr. William Neal of West Virginia University in Morgantown, who led the new study.

Neal said treating youth with cholesterol-lowering drugs, the so-called statins, would curb the risk that they went on to develop heart problems in middle age. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the Western world.

Based on data from West Virginia, Neal and colleagues found that more than one percent of all fifth-graders had cholesterol levels that warranted drug treatment. But a third of those children didn't have relatives with heart disease or high cholesterol, and so wouldn't have been screened under the current guidelines, issued by the government's National Cholesterol Education Program.

"I have gradually become convinced that universal screening in children is not only preferable, but necessary," said Neal. He added that although universal screening would be expensive, it would save a lot of money later on if heart disease could be prevented.

But not all scientists agree that screening is a good idea. For example, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federal expert panel, currently doesn't recommend routine cholesterol screening in any children.

"Unfortunately, there is no evidence that starting a ten-year-old on cholesterol-lowering drugs will prevent heart disease 40 years later," said Dr. Michael L. LeFevre, a member of the task force.

He said statin treatment in children was still controversial, and that no long-term safety data existed.

The new study tapped into data from more than 20,000 children who had been screened at public schools in West Virginia over five years.

More than seven in 10 school kids had first-degree relatives with heart disease, and about one percent of those had "bad" cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) levels that might require drug treatment in addition to diet changes and exercise, according to the researchers.

Yet among the kids without heart disease in their family, the percentage of children who might benefit from treatment was closer to two percent than to one, meaning that family history didn't seem to make a difference.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Money Can't Buy You Joy

More money may improve people's satisfaction with life, but it won't necessarily help them enjoy it, suggests a new study.

Researches analyzed data gathered in the first Gallup World Poll, which included more than 136,000 people in 132 countries who were surveyed in 2005-2006. The respondents, who rated their lives on a scale of zero (worst) to 10 (best), were asked about positive or negative emotions experienced the previous day, whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do what they do best.

Like other studies have found, the analysis revealed that life satisfaction -- the belief that your life is going well -- increases as income increases, individually and in the country overall. But researchers also found that although overall positive feelings increased somewhat along with rising income, these feelings were much more strongly linked with other factors, such as feeling respected, enjoying autonomy and social support from friends and family and having a fulfilling job.

"The public always wonders: Does money make you happy? This study shows that it all depends on how you define happiness because, if you look at life satisfaction, how you evaluate your life as a whole, you see a pretty strong correlation around the world between income and happiness," Ed Diener, a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization and a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois, said in a university news release. "On the other hand, it's pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself."

According to Diener, this was the first study to differentiate between life satisfaction and day-to-day positive or negative feelings that people experience.

"Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income," he said. "And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life."