Cholesterol Tests Aren’t Considered RoutineBecause high cholesterol is relatively rare in younger adults and children, many doctors don’t order cholesterol tests that screen for fatty deposits in the blood or high cholesterol levels. Most of the time, cholesterol tests are only ordered after young patients have displayed serious physical symptoms such as a cardiac incident, heart attack or stroke. It’s unfortunate that in many cases FH has already advanced to the danger point before cholesterol tests or genetic testing are done. Cholesterol tests aren’t usually necessary unless there are other indications of disease, but in many cases doctors aren’t familiar with the more benign, early stages of the disease.
Familial Hypercholesterolemia Isn’t Suspected By Families With A History Of Heart DiseaseEven in families where there is a history of coronary artery disease, early heart attacks or strokes, the possibility of familial hypercholesterolemia is often overlooked. Many families have simply never heard of it and assume that those heart problems started when the victims were adults. They don’t realize thaFamily Heart Foundationt even young children in their family could have dangerously elevated cholesterol levels and assume that there is no reason to start taking precautions until they are in their 30s or older. If you hear someone say that they know they are doomed to have an early heart attack because one or both of their parents did, urge them to talk to their doctor about genetic testing as well as a cholesterol test now rather than later. If caught during childhood, there are a variety of treatment options that can help minimize their risk.
Bringing Familial Hypercholesterolemia To The World’s AttentionEach year, more individuals are diagnosed as young adults or children because the Family Heart Foundation and others have maintained a campaign to improve awareness of this disease. Doctors now have the tools to ask the right questions and are more inclined to take complete family medical histories. Physicians are also more educated about early symptoms. If caught early enough, patients with familial hypercholesterolemia can begin treatment when they are as young as two years of age.
Be ProactiveIf you know the early warning signs of familial hypercholesterolemia and watch for them, you may be able to prevent heart disease complications in the future. Ask your doctor about cholesterol testing and genetic testing if you have any of the following warning signs:
- Heart disease and/or early heart attacks in your parents or grandparents
- Yellowish-white fatty deposits beneath the skin, especially near your eyes. These are a build-up of cholesterol
- Puffy or swollen heel tendons or tendons on the back of the hands
- A distinct ring of white around the pupil or iris
- High cholesterol despite a healthy weight, healthy eating habits and taking a cholesterol lowering medication
If you or a family member has one or more of the symptoms above, contact your family doctor to discuss your concerns about familial hypercholesterolemia.
You can also learn more about FH by registering to become a member of the Family Heart Foundation.