Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic condition that results in high levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol — also known as “bad” cholesterol. The condition begins at birth and affects one throughout life. A potential result of the risks posed by familial hypercholesterolemia is heart attack. Eighty-five percent of men with the disorder have a heart attack by age 60. Affected women experience a similar risk but tend to have heart attacks roughly a decade later than men.
Statistics show that familial hypercholesterolemia occurs in at least 1 in 500 people in most countries. The condition is passed from parents to offspring in an autosomal dominant manner. This means that a parent who carries the gene for the disorder has a 50 percent chance of passing it on to each of his or her children. In rare cases, a person inherits the gene from both parents — a scenario that accounts for only 1 in 1,000,000 cases of the condition.
Signs of Hypercholesterolemia
Signs of familial hypercholesterolemia in a family often remain undiagnosed because a) high cholesterol levels are attributed to poor eating habits instead of genetic causes and b) there isn’t awareness of recurring heart problems and high cholesterol in the family (which is a major indicator of FH). If you have not been tested for familial hypercholesterolemia, and you suspect the condition is the cause of heart problems in your family, take a look at the common signs of familial hypercholesterolemia.
Unusually high levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol
A family history of high cholesterol levels or early heart attack
High levels of therapy-resistant LDL cholesterol in one or both parents
Yellowish bumps or lumps (cholesterol deposits) in the skin, tendons, and/or eyelids
Deposits of cholesterol around the corner of the eye
Consistent chest pain that responds poorly to over-the-counter pain medications.
Familial hypercholesterolemia prevalence ranges between 1 in 200 to 1 in 500 people. If your cholesterol levels remain high no matter what precautions you take, or heart problems are common in your family’s medical history, it is imperative to be tested as soon as possible. Testing consists of a physical examination and laboratory tests. Laboratory testing involves checking cholesterol levels, evaluating heart function, and conducting genetic testing. If it is determined that you have familial hypercholesterolemia, you will work with a lipid specialist to lower your risk of heart problems.
Treatments for Hypercholesterolemia
Familial hypercholesterolemia prevalence has led to specific treatment regimens for those who have the condition. Treating FH typically consists of making positive lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, quitting smoking, controlling weight, and exercising regularly, as well as taking a statin drug, taking a cholesterol absorber, and taking a bile acid sequestrant. With the right treatment regimen, those who suffer from familial hypercholesterolemia can significantly lower their risk of a heart attack.
If so, contact the FH Foundation — a patient oriented non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about familial hypercholesterolemia prevalence, the signs and symptoms of the disorder, and the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. We also work with a group of committed physicians, nurse practitioners, professional organizations, governmental representatives, and volunteers to make positive changes for those who have the condition.
For more information about hypercholesterolemia, browse through our website, call us today at (626) 465-1234, or click here to use our contact form.