A new study by the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress has found a significant link between high LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein, which transports fat molecules such as cholesterol) levels of women of childbearing age and the LDL levels of their offspring. The finding is important in highlighting the implication of intrauterine risks, as opposed to only hereditary factors, that are key to predicting health later in life.
The significance of the intrauterine period was studied using records from the Framingham Heart Study, which looked at young adults whose mothers had their LDL levels tested and recorded before birth. The offspring’s risk of dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of the lipoproteins) was five times higher if the mother had high cholesterol before pregnancy versus after pregnancy, and the risk was only slightly offset by environmental factors such as obesity and smoking.
The study shows that epigenetics (where genes have the potential to switch on and off depending on environmental factors, as opposed to simply being pre-programmed) can have a lasting negative effect on offspring, and – alternatively – that this risk factor can be preventable, for example, if the estimated one in four women who have high LDL cholesterol levels change their lifestyles prior to having children.
Source: Medscape Cardiology [http://www.medscape.com/
What about women with Familial Hypercholesterolemia?
All women experience an increase in cholesterol levels during pregnancy. For women with FH, this increase is more significant given the higher baseline. Remember, some types of lipid-lowering medications are contraindicated during pregnancy; it is important for women with FH to ask their doctors about other options available to them.
Regardless of gender, a parent with familiar hypercholesterolemia has a fifty percent chance of passing down FH to each of his or her children. With proper diagnosis, FH is treatable.