Understanding Familial Hypercholesterolemia
Familial Hypercholesterolemia is a heredity disorder that drastically affects the levels of natural
cholesterol in the body, often leading to serious cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and stroke.
Unfortunately, there are many people who have this disorder yet are unaware of its existence and the
terrible toll it can take on their health. Understanding what it is and what to look for if you have it are steps
in the right direction.
What Is Familial Hypercholesterolemia? The Basics
The human body's liver naturally produces cholesterol in addition to the cholesterol that we put into our
bodies through the foods we eat. In people with this disorder, often referred to as FH, their bodies can't
break down or recycle the cholesterol their bodies produce, leading to extremely high levels that
eventually lead to blocked arteries, particularly in the brain and heart. In many cases, those blockages
can cause a heart attack or stroke.
It's important to understand that this is a genetic disorder; in other words, an individual doesn't develop
this illess because they are taking in too much cholesterol. It isn't caused by lack of exercise or a poor
diet. It is a genetic disease that can be passed on to your children. Although diet and exercise can help, it
can't cure this potentially deadly disorder.
Not all forms of cholesterol are bad for you. In fact, having some HDL-C in your bloodstream can help
protect you against future coronary diseases. LDL-C, however, contributes to heart disease and raises
the potential for a heart attack or stroke. LDL-C can't be broken down properly by individuals with FH and
it builds up in the body, clogging arteries.
Are There Different Types Of This Disorder?
There are two basic types of the disorder. The most common is Homozygous Familial
Hypercholesterolemia, which is passed down from one parent to his or her children in about 50% of
cases. About one person in four hundred is afflicted with Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia. On
the other hand, Heterozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia is passed down from both parents to their
children and is much rarer and much more severe. Fortunately,Heterozygous FH only occurs in about
one in a million individuals around the globe.
Who Gets FH?
There is no way to "catch" FH, but it can be handed down from one generation to the next. You only need
to inherit one specific FH gene from a father or mother to develop high levels of LDL-C. If you inherit the
gene from both your parents, your LDL-C levels will be extremely high and the symptoms may be more
severe. If a parent, child or sibling has FH, there is a 50% chance that you also have it. Families often
have a history of certain family members who have had heart attacks earlier in life but aren't aware that a
genetic disorder is the cause. If someone in your family has had a heart attack before the age of 50, talk
to your doctor about the possibility of Familial Hypercholesterolemia. Because an individual with FH is
twenty times as likely to suffer from early heart disease, it's imperative that your family gets early testing
The FH Foundation educates Familial Hypercholesterolemia (http://www.thefhfoundation.org/about-us/)
patients about the care and treatment of Homozygous and Heterozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia.
To join the FH Foundation, visit http://www.thefhfoundation.com.