The numbers are terrifying. Each year, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of more than 800,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This means that one third of the people who die each year in America, die from heart disease. Heart attacks alone are the cause of death for more than 130,000 Americans each year.
It’s true that the majority of these cases are lifestyle induced. Quite simply, that means that Americans are smoking, eating too much and living a sedentary lifestyle instead of exercising regularly. Many cases of cardiovascular disease can be reversed or improved if one makes an effort to exercise, quit smoking and eat better foods.
However, there is a group of people with a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia. For these people, diet and exercise is far from enough to reverse high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease. People with familial hypercholesterolemia, also called FH, are unable to remove low density lipoprotein (the bad type of cholesterol) from their bloodstreams. Because FH is a genetic disorder, it’s passed down from parents to children.
Familial Hypercholesterolemia Symptoms You Can’t See
If you have chest pain, particularly if you’re young, you should be screened for FH. Additionally if your parents or grandparents were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, especially if the diagnosis came at a very young age, you should talk to your doctor about being tested for FH. Key hints that you might be at risk of FH are high cholesterol levels and a family history of early heart disease, heart attacks, or atherosclerosis.
Familial Hypercholesterolemia Symptoms: What To Look For
The impact of familial hypercholesterolemia takes place inside the body, which means it can be difficult to see physical symptoms. The accumulation of cholesterol and subsequent narrowing or blockage of arteries is a gradual process, which might take years to be discovered. However, there are a few key familial hypercholesterolemia symptoms, that are evident in those with a more severe from of FH. One of the easiest familial hypercholesterolemia symptoms to see is a xanthelasmas. These are yellow deposits of cholesterol underneath the eye or surrounding the eyelids. Cholesterol deposits, called xanthomas, can be found on the hands, ankles, knees and elbows. Cholesterol can also be found on the corneas, but these can be more difficult to notice and may require a visit to the doctor.
Now That You Know Familial Hypercholesterolemia Symptoms, How Can You Treat It?
FH is not curable, but it is treatable!. Part of the treatment is healthy living — no smoking, exercising regularly and avoiding foods that are high in trans fats and saturated fats. The good news is that these are things everyone should be doing — whether they have FH or not.
For people with FH, lifestyle changes aren’t enough. Everyone with FH will require medication to lower their cholesterol levels. In extreme cases, medication isn’t enough. These people will need to go through a dialysis-like procedure to remove the cholesterol from their bloodstream, called apheresis.
If your parents had cardiovascular disease from a young age or your yearly physical has revealed some cholesterol concerns, being tested for FH isn’t a bad idea. The FH Foundation can help arm you with the knowledge you need to talk to your doctor. Being diagnosed with FH is the first step toward living a healthier life.
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