Every so often, I hear someone grumpily complain about their high cholesterol and what they’re doing to get it under control. The great majority of people will respond to a change in diet and physical activity; some are treated with statins, or cholesterol-reducing medication. The thing is, their LDL (the bad cholesterol) will eventually come down.
It’s a different story for folks with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic condition that’s inherited from one parent.
When both parents have FH, their child is at risk of having what is known as homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH), which can lead to early cardiovascular disease. A metaphorical stick of dynamite won’t even bring down an HoFH patient’s LDL.
Avery Watts has HoFH and, at the tender age of seven, is being treated aggressively by a process called apheresis. Every two weeks, her blood is circulated through a machine that removes the excess fat from her blood stream—this is very much like kidney dialysis.
Without this treatment, Avery’s mother says she could have a heart attack at any moment.
If there is a history of FH in your family, your child should be screened for high cholesterol around age two.
Regardless, all children should be tested by the time they are eight years old.
Avery’s mom shudders to think what could have happened had they not discovered how dangerously high her daughter’s cholesterol numbers were. The good news is… there are several drugs approved by the FDA for treating both FH and HoFH. If this rare disorder is a part of your life, talk to your doctor to learn more.