Did You Know High Cholesterol Can Be Genetic?

By Sonja Vojcic, health news, a news service from Advocate Health Care

Did you know that one in 250 people have high LDL cholesterol caused by a specific genetic condition? This puts them at risk of a heart attack and stroke, and a staggering 90 percent of them don’t know it. The condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH.

LDL cholesterol is also known as “bad” cholesterol. The higher the number, the greater the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The lower the number, the lower your risk. HDL is the other key cholesterol number you should know. HDL is generally referred to as “good” cholesterol, and typically the higher the HDL, the lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The majority of the cholesterol circulating in your body does not come directly from your food, but is produced by your liver. According to the FH Foundation, in FH patients, genetic mutations make the liver incapable of removing excess LDL. The result is very high LDL levels, which can lead to premature heart disease.

Blood cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Normal LDL level for adults is around 100mg/dL and 70 mg/dL for children. Adults with FH have LDL levels from 190 mg/dL to 400 mg/dL or higher, and children with FH generally have LDL levels above 160 mg/dL.

“The biggest problem with FH is that it’s rarely diagnosed,” says Dr. Alan Brown, Director of Cardiology and the Lipid Clinic at the Advocate Heart Institute at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “If your LDL levels are over 190 mg/dL, that means you have FH, and all your immediate family members need to be tested. There is a 50/50 chance your siblings and children will have this condition, too.”

Research shows if children with FH are not treated until they are in their 20s, ten percent of them will have heart disease by the age of 30. Yet if children are treated when they are 8 or 9 years old, the chance of them developing heart disease by age 30 is zero.

“Low dose statins are proven to be safe in children, and they can help prevent heart disease at a young age. If your LDL cholesterol is over 190, ask your doctor if you might have FH. Also ask your child’s pediatrician to do a cholesterol test on them, and don’t forget to tell your siblings to get tested, too. If your child’s LDL is greater than 160, they have a high likelihood of having FH. The sooner your child can get treated, the better,” adds Dr. Brown.

Have you had your cholesterol levels checked lately? If anyone in your family has high “bad” cholesterol, it’s time to get them checked.

For more health and wellness news, visit www.ahchealthenews.com.

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