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September 14th, 2007

Children as young as 15 months should be screened for high cholesterol in an attempt to cut the number of Britons suffering from heart disease, doctors say today.

A national screening programme, which would involve a blood test for babies, possibly at the same time as routine vaccinations such as MMR, could help to slash the number of people in the UK with heart disease caused by hereditary high cholesterol, according to the doctors, who publish their work online in the British Medical Journal.

About two in every 1,000 people are affected by familial hypercholesterolaemia, which carries a high risk of a build-up of cholesterol in the blood and premature death from heart disease. But it is difficult to ascertain who in the population has the genetic disorder.

David Wald, a consultant cardiologist and senior lecturer at the Wolfson institute of preventive medicine at the University of London, and colleagues carried out a study to find out the best way to screen for the disorder. They reviewed 13 studies involving a total of 1,907 people with hereditary high cholesterol and 16,221 without.

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