Skip to content

    Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Genetic High Cholesterol More Common Than Thought

    Researchers say finding shows early treatment is important to avert heart attack

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Alan Mozes

    HealthDay Reporter

    MONDAY, March 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Twice as many people as previously thought are genetically predisposed to develop dangerously high cholesterol levels, new research suggests.

    Familial hypercholesterolemia, as this condition is called, significantly ups the risk for an early heart attack. The study found it affects about one in every 250 American men and women, rather than one in 500.

    The new numbers don't reflect a problem on the rise, however, said study author Dr. Sarah de Ferranti, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Instead, the condition was previously "under-recognized," she explained.

    For those who have this potentially deadly condition, "it is extremely important to get early, consistent preventive care," de Ferranti said.

    "The key is for you and your clinician to understand and distinguish between mild to moderately high cholesterol that comes on in middle age related to a less than ideal lifestyle, and very high cholesterol that has been present since birth, which has allowed the high cholesterol to build up over decades," she explained.

    If a close relative has a heart attack or chest pain before age 50, consider having other family members checked, she suggested.

    Preventive measures include medication and lifestyle modification, de Ferranti noted. "We have very effective medications to lower cholesterol that we believe can reduce heart disease rates to the level of people without [familial hypercholesterolemia] if taken early enough and with good consistency," de Ferranti noted.

    It's also important to maintain a healthy weight, watch what you eat and control blood pressure, she said. Not doing so can make your situation worse, she explained.

    Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed that while the risks are serious, good treatment is at the ready.

    "Without treatment," he said, "men who have familial hyperchosterolemia frequently have heart attacks in their 40s and 50s, and women with familial hypercholesterolemia frequently have heart attacks in their 50s and 60s."

    Once detected, "there are a number of very effective treatments that can lower the LDL cholesterol and prevent heart attacks and stroke in individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia," added Fonarow.

    Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

    Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
    What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

    Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


    or
    Answer:
    Desirable
    0-199
    Borderline
    200-239
    High
    240+

    Your level is currently

    Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

    Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

    Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

    Start Over

    Step:  of 

    Today on WebMD

    woman pulling supplements from shelf
    Can they help lower yours?
    bowl of yogurt with heart shape
    What it can do for you.
     
    woman exercising
    14 practical tips.
    chocolate glazed donut and avocado
    What your levels mean.
     
    Heart Foods Slideshow
    Slideshow
    Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
    Quiz
     
    Food & Fitness Planner
    TOOL
    Attractive salad
    ARTICLE
     
    Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    worst sandwich slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Fat Foods Fit Foods
    SLIDESHOW
    woman drinking coffee
    SLIDESHOW