Familial hypercholesterolaemia is an inherited condition which leads to exceptionally high cholesterol levels, often double and sometimes four times those of the general population.
One in 500 people, that’s up to 120,000 in the UK have FH. However, it could be as high as in other European countries, where it’s one in 200, which means as many as 300,000 people could have the condition. 85% of people remain undiagnosed.
FH is not caused by an unhealthy diet or lifestyle, but is passed from generation to generation through a “faulty” or “altered” gene. This means that brothers and sisters, or children of someone with FH have a one in two chance of having the condition.
If untreated, about 50 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women with FH will develop coronary heart disease by the time they’re 55. But early diagnosis and effective treatment of FH reduces the risk of heart disease and can help ensure that people with FH have a normal life expectancy.
Steve Boley, now 64, and an active trustee at HEART UK lives with FH and said:
“I was diagnosed as having FH over 30 years ago, and have lived a happy and healthy life with the help of medication. This was not so for my father, who retired early in his 50s following two major heart attacks. It was only then that we learnt about FH and the consequences of not getting it treated.
“Although I have, and always will have FH, I can live a normal life expectancy of someone with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, thanks to finding out early enough and getting the right treatment.
“We need to do more to encourage people to get checked for FH and for a greater awareness amongst GPs and other health professions about the condition.”
For more information about FH visit: www.heartuk.org.uk/fh-familial-hypercholesterolemia