Familial hyperlipidemia (FH) is a medical condition caused by a genetic mutation that causes high cholesterol. Incidence of FH is thought to be as frequent as 1 in 200 to 1 in 300 in the general population. Individuals with FH are at increased risk of early-onset atherosclerosis, which leads to coronary artery blockages and heart attacks. Patients may be up to 3-4 times more likely than the general population to develop a heart attack before age 50. It has been shown that atherosclerosis can start to form in children as young as 3 years of age. Typically, patients have no warning signs and they remain asymptomatic.
Research has shown that lowering cholesterol can have a positive impact on coronary vascular disease. By lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels through healthy diet, exercise and medication, individuals can change their risk of developing a blockages that lead to heart attacks. Risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndromes, and renal disease may increase the risk of early coronary artery disease. Family history is especially important since it is one of the highest indications that an individual may have problems in adulthood. While family history is of great importance, approximately 30% of people who have hyperlipidemia can go undiagnosed.
A healthy diet low in saturated fats and simple sugars can help lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Typically, children require 1500 calories per day. A healthy diet should concentrate on fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts, which are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins. It is important to learn how to read food labels to help manage caloric intake. It is important to choose foods wisely and limit junk food. Daily exercise of moderate intensity will also help lower risk the risk of developing high cholesterol. The most important aspect of exercise is to maintain a regimen that elevates the heart rate for 60 minutes, five days a week.
Statins (lipid-lowering medications) are recommended for individuals with persistently elevated cholesterol. They are safe for long-term use and there has been no evidence to show side effects on growth. Your doctor will need to occasionally monitor its effects with blood work. Genetic testing is also available for individuals at risk for FH. Please refer to the American Heart Association or National Association of Lipidology for additional information.