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Understanding an Lp(a) Diagnosis: Gail’s Story

At age 30, Gail Titus found herself scared, bewildered, and heartbroken. Her father had a fatal heart attack at the age of 58. She wondered if the same thing might happen to her, but she convinced herself it wouldn’t. She never smoked. She wasn’t overweight like her father had been. She wasn’t worried about heart disease.  However, this wasn’t the end of her family’s health scares. When Gail was 37, her paternal cousin was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare form of heart failure that can occur late in pregnancy. After Gail’s cousin gave birth to a beautiful daughter, a cardiologist discovered that her cousin had elevated lipoprotein “little a,” or Lp(a).  Elevated Lp(a) levels are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The cardiologist encouraged her cousin to tell as many relatives as possible – elevated Lp(a) is genetic and runs in families.

Gail discovered that she also had high Lp(a).

She was prescribed niacin, but she stopped taking it because of her concerns about side effects, including severe flushing. A few years later, she discovered during a physical that her LDL-cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol,” was high.  While Gail’s doctor recommended that she try various statins over the years, she did not take them – she wanted to tackle her high cholesterol through diet and exercise. At 45, Gail joined a gym, where she worked with a personal trainer and a nutrition coach to get fit. Her LDL-C fluctuated between normal and abnormal levels and her Lp(a) went unmonitored. A month after she turned 58 – her father’s age when he had his fatal heart attack – Gail suffered a retinal artery occlusion, or eye stroke, in her left eye. Her vision was only impaired temporarily and no permanent damage was done to her retina, but she began to take her high Lp(a) levels a lot more seriously. Now, she works with a large medical team, including a primary care doctor, a functional medicine doctor, an ophthalmologist, a retinal specialist, a lipidologist, a vascular neurologist, and a cardiologist. Gail was also clinically diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, based on her family history, along with untreated LDL-C of 199, and corneal arcus.  

She’s fully committed to her treatment, and she’s glad she found the Family Heart Foundation. 

“I am grateful to the Family Heart Foundation for connecting me with educational resources and a lipid specialist who can help me manage my FH and high Lp(a),” Gail says. “The support I receive from their online community and ability to connect with other individuals living at risk for heart disease has helped me understand I am doing what I can to manage my heart disease risk. I am proud to be an Advocate for Awareness with the ability to reach out to my family members, friends, acquaintances and others to spread the word about FH and Lp(a), as knowledge is power.” If you’re concerned about your levels of Lp(a), the Family Heart Foundation is excited to help you. Here’s how to get started

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