Familial Hypercholesterolemia


WHAT IS FH?

Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a cholesterol problem found in families. Many people have high cholesterol but people with FH have very high cholesterol, starting in childhood or even at birth. People with FH also often have a pattern in their family history of early heart disease.

WHY IS FH A PROBLEM?

When you have FH, cholesterol can build up in the walls of blood vessels and over time lead to heart attacks, stroke and blood vessel disease. It is important that FH is found early to prevent cholesterol build-up and the blood vessel disease it may cause. FH families often have a pattern of people with very high cholesterol who may have had a heart attack or heart disease early, in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or 50’s.

WHY LOOK FOR FH?

If FH is found early, serious problems of the heart and blood vessels may be prevented or delayed by making changes such as:
    • not smoking
    • regularly exercising
    • eating a healthy diet
    • taking your medications
It is important to find FH and take action at any age, because when treated, the risk of heart disease can be reduced to levels similar to those of the general population.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE FH?

People with FH may look perfectly healthy. FH may not even be found during a health check-up. Nurses and doctors may find FH by a cholesterol test and a review of your family history.

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Disclaimer: While PCNA strives to provide reliable, up-to-date health information, this and other PCNA education materials are for informational purposes only and not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose and treat a medical problem.