Heterozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia (or HeFH), ever heard of it? It’s a mouthful.
It’s also a condition that causes highly dangerous cholesterol levels and, if left untreated, can lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart disease.
But that’s not all!
The condition brings with it many other big and confusing words that those outside of the FH community may not be too aware of. Here are the ones you need to know (or just use them to impress your friends) and what they mean:
1. Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) – this base condition of HeFH is inherited from the patient’s family and causes elevated levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein). Unlike other conditions that affect cholesterol levels, FH has nothing to do with diet. Patients are often victims of high LDL levels at birth, and can even have early heart attacks before late adulthood.
2. Autosomal Dominant Genetic Disorder – basically, this is a big word for “inherited.” With this kind of disease, children are susceptible to inheriting an abnormal gene from one of their parents. Often times, the parent also has the disease. This is where the “heterozygous” part comes from. That’s why it’s important to know your family’s history and get tested for cholesterol levels for the sake of your children. A child has a 50% chance of inheriting FH if one parent as the condition!
3. High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – this is the good stuff, or the “good cholesterol.” HDL moves cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver, where it’s then removed from the body entirely. As WebMD puts it, higher levels of HDL are great to ward off heart disease, but the lower the levels, the greater the risk.
4. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – meet HDL cholesterol’s evil twin, the “bad cholesterol.” In HeFH, high LDL cholesterol is what causes all the problems. Bodies who produce too much of this bad guy begin building plague and blockages in the arteries causing tons of possibly fatal issues.
5. Xanthoma—ever seen someone with yellow spots on their skin and wondered what in the world? This may be the culprit. Due to HeFH patient’s high LDL levels, fat builds up under the skin causing these deposits to become visible.
Through lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, workout habits, not smoking, and a treatment plan, HeFH can be tolerable. However, cholesterol-lowering medications are almost always required in order to manage this condition. Statins, which inhibit the natural production of cholesterol in the liver, are common cholesterol-lowering medications. Work with your doctor to find the right medication for your individual condition.
Interested in learning more about HeFH? Explore the FH Foundation’s website to help raise awareness through education advocacy, and research. Maybe even learn a thing or two.
If you or someone you know has crazy high cholesterol levels, but know it can’t be weight or diet, share this to help people go see their doctor about this dangerous condition!