January 6, 2021
If you have a family history of early heart disease and a personal history of very high cholesterol, you may be at risk for familial hypercholesterolemia. FH is an inherited condition that causes unusually high LDL cholesterol (typically above 190 mg/dL), increasing your risk for heart disease. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Familial Hypercholesterolemia?
FH is caused by a genetic mutation limiting the liver’s ability to efficiently filter and break down LDL, or “bad cholesterol.” It is not caused by poor dietary choices or lack of exercise.
LDL particles accumulate in the bloodstream to dangerous levels, resulting in narrowing of the arteries feeding the heart and other parts of the body. The high levels of LDL particles caused by FH can often be observed from birth.
Many people are surprised to learn FH is the world’s most common potentially deadly inherited condition, affecting every racial and ethnic group. Current estimates suggest one in 200 to one in 500 people have FH, meaning that right now there are about 10.5 to 21 million people with FH in the world.
FH is Hereditary
FH affects men and women equally. If your mother or father has FH, you have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. Similarly, if you find out your sibling or child has FH, you also face a 50% chance of having inherited it.
How To Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease from FH
Awareness, identification by a blood test, and treatment with cholesterol-lowering medicines are the keys to preventing heart disease from FH. FH can be treated from a young age to drastically reduce the risk of developing heart disease later in life.
Those who do not seek treatment, face a very high probability of health complications. On average, a man with untreated FH has a 50% chance of suffering a heart attack before age 50, and an 85% chance before 65.
If you have a family history of early heart disease and very high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about being tested for familial hypercholesterolemia.