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High Cholesterol Can Run in Families

Many people develop high cholesterol as they get older. But if you have familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is dangerously high early in life. This happens because the body isn’t able to get rid of the excess LDL cholesterol, also called the “bad” cholesterol.

If you or someone in your family has very high LDL cholesterol and it hasn’t improved with diet, other lifestyle changes and medication, ask about FH. You can also use the worksheet Could I or a Loved One Have FH?

FH usually runs in families. People with FH often have a genetic variant (a mistake in a gene).

This gene change makes it hard for the body to remove cholesterol. As a result, extra cholesterol is in the bloodstream. This starts in childhood – often before 10 years of age. Over time, cholesterol builds up in the arteries and veins, causing them to narrow or even become blocked. This can lead to chest pain, heart attacks and strokes early in life.

The good news is that if you have FH, there are now many treatments available to help keep you healthy. It’s important to start therapies to lower LDL cholesterol as soon as possible. 

Lipoprotein (a)
About 1 in 3 people with FH also have high Lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a). In most cases, Lp(a) is also inherited or passed down in families. Lp(a) is not measured as part of routine cholesterol or lipid tests, so ask your health care team if you should have yours checked with a simple blood test.

Visit CardioSmart.org/FH to learn more.

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  • Last Edited 08/25/2023

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