Although most people believe the level of cholesterol is mostly determined by diet, in actuality one’s inheritance plays a major role in all types of cholesterol abnormalities.

One type of high cholesterol, termed “familial hypercholesterolemia” or “FH” is entirely genetic. This relatively common disorder-occurring in about 1/300 in the general population- is inherited as an “autosomal dominant”. The children of a parent with FH, whether male or female, have a 50% chance of having the same problem. These people can only be treated with medication. Body weight, diet, and exercise all have minimal effects on cholesterol levels in patients with FH. Vigorous exercise and a perfect diet will not prevent the progression of artery disease in persons with FH.

Elevated cholesterol may be present even in children with FH, and screening for this disorder should be considered in persons at risk beginning as early as two years of age. All individuals should be screened by the age of 20. Under the direction of a pediatrician versed in cholesterol disorders, treatment can begin as young as 8. The goal we are reaching for is early identification and proper treatment of all individuals with FH. At this time our culture falls far short of this goal. 90% of FH is undiagnosed and undertreated in the United States. Some European countries have identified 90% of all cases.

Without proper medical treatment the significant majority with FH will succumb to heart disease and other blood vessel problems. Properly treated, however, most of these individuals will live a normal life largely free of vascular disease. At Centerpoint Medical Center, we intend to lead the way in conquering this common and fatal illness. 

Call (816) 751-3000 to find a cardiologist who specializes in lipid disorder management.