Statins should be given to thousands of children by the age of 10 under radical new NHS guidance.
GPs are being urged to identify those who have an inherited risk of high cholesterol, amid warnings that the vast majority of cases are going undetected.
Estimates suggest up to 260,000 people – including 50,000 children – are suffering from genetic deficts which affect the body’s ability to break down cholesterol.
New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) today says statins should be offered to such cases, to reduce their risk of heart or stroke in midlife.
Just 15 per cent of those with the condition are being treated for it, Nice said, including just 600 of 56,000 children with the genetic problem.
Family doctors are being asked to trawl records to idenitfy those with very high cholesterol levels.
Where levels of more than 9 mmol/l are found in those over 30, and those of 7.5 mmol/l are found in those under 30, high-dose statins should be offered, the NHS guidance states.
And it says gene tests should be used to find other family members – including those below the age of 10 – who are at such heightened risk that they should be put on medication.
Around 56,000 children are estimated to suffer from familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), yet just 600 have been diagnosed, charities say.
The condition gives men a 50 per cent chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke before the age of 50, while women have a one in three chance by the age of 60.