It's never too early for baby's first cholesterol test. Researchers believe all children between the ages of 1 and 2 should be screened for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic condition that drastically increases the risk of heart attacks under the age of 40, according to a press release. In a study published Thursday, researchers screened more than 10,000 toddlers for FH through genetic and cholesterol testing. They found nearly 0.4% of children have FH—nearly twice as many as previously believed. Researchers say early testing could prevent about 600 heart attacks in people under the age of 40 every year in Britain alone. "It's reasonable to screen for something that's common, dangerous, and has a treatment that's effective and safe," one doctor tells the AP.
Researchers argue that early screening would be easy to implement, Medical Daily reports. Toddlers can be tested at the same time they're vaccinated, and there's no follow-up visits required. According to AFP, the best treatment for children with FH is exercise and eating right. Testing toddlers also has another benefit. Because FH is passed on genetically, finding a child with FH also means finding at least one parent with the condition who may or may not have been aware of it. Researchers say 90% of parents who found out they had FH during the study sought treatment for it. And early testing is apparently popular with families. During the study, 84% of families asked if they wanted their child screened said yes. (A study found 45% of heart attacks may go unnoticed.)