A man with this disease is likely to have a heart attack in his 40s or 50s. Women face the same risk only delayed by 10 years in their 50s or 60s.
“Familial Hypercholesterolemia is a long name. So let’s simplify it,” says McLeod Cardiologist Evans Holland, MD. “Familial means that you inherit it from one or both of your parents. Hyper indicates very high. And cholesterolemia stands for the presence of elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood. Altogether, the results lead to an aggressive and premature cardiovascular disease.”
CHOLESTEROL & FH
Everyone needs cholesterol. The so-called “good” cholesterol (HDL) helps the body build Vitamin D, produce substances that help digest food and help make certain hormones. However, an excess of cholesterol – especially the “bad” type (LDL) – builds up as waxy plaque in the arteries.
With Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) abnormally high levels of cholesterol are created and buildups clog and harden arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart. Sometimes it narrows the valves in the heart that control blood flow. All these changes can lead to heart attack and stroke in younger adults.
Many people with FH have no visible symptoms – until a heart attack. Other people with FH may see the cholesterol cause visible growths in the hands, fingers, under the eyelids or even on the front surface of the eye.
FH can’t be cured but treatments will reduce symptoms and the likelihood of serious medical problems.
Like most cardiac problems, treatment starts with lifestyle changes and the recommendation to Quit Smoking.
Diet. Choose a diet that’s low in fat. Eat less beef, chicken and pork. Eat low-fat diary products. Avoid egg yolks. Look for low-fat diary products. Eliminate trans-fats from your diet.
Lose Weight, especially if you are overweight. Add daily exercise to your schedule. Try for the recommended 150 minutes a week. Start easy with a walk or bicycle ride and build from there.
Medications. A cardiologist may prescribe additional drugs to decrease triglycerides, the substance that prompts the body to store fat.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Here are questions to answer for yourself:
If you answer YES to any one of these, see a cardiologist. This is important, because only 10% of people in the U.S. with FH have been correctly diagnosed.
Even if you don’t have FH, your symptoms could be the sign of some other cardiovascular disease that needs treatment.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Helath, FH Foundation, National Human Genome Research Institute, U.S. National Library of Medicine