See the latest coronavirus and vaccine informationLearn about the Lancaster General Hospital Emergency Department expansion and related traffic changes.

High Cholesterol May Be in Your Genes

Smiling family

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.

author name

Rolf L. Andersen, MD, FACC

Rolf L. Andersen, MD, FACC, is a cardiologist with The Heart Group of Lancaster General Health where he is director of the Risk Factor Clinic.

Education: A graduate of Columbia University, Dr. Andersen is a research investigator at Lancaster Heart & Vascular Institute, and has participated in 40 clinical studies on the safety and effectiveness of various drug therapies and treatment devices.

Call: 717-544-8300

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


Share This Page: