Is high cholesterol hereditary? Genetics might play a role in your cholesterol levels. Learn more about this in this complete guide.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you’ve no doubt witnessed the cholesterol craze. Fad diets come and go, like Paleo. But science always clears our vision–such as teaching us that cholesterol levels are not the only factor in our heart health.
That said, it is important to manage high cholesterol for your overall health. And after taking a cholesterol test, you may wonder if your high cholesterol is hereditary. After all, you may have diseases common to your family, and cholesterol genetic factors might be a part of that.
Join us as we discuss whether inherited high cholesterol is possible, and how this affects your health.
Diagnosing Genetic Heart Issues
It’s important to repeat here that there are many, many factors that go into your heart health. Even without cholesterol genetic factors, there may be other conditions contributing to poor heart health. It’s important not to view your cholesterol levels as the primary influencer.
For example, you may suffer from familial hypertension. You may have high blood pressure that forces you to lower your sodium intake. You may suffer from heart palpitations or other genetic heart conditions inherited from your ancestors.
Visit your physician and get your blood work done. Consider doing DNA tests for a better understanding of the genetic markers that affect your heart health. You may discover that you have much bigger fish to fry than high cholesterol.
With that said, there are some genetic components that affect your heart health.
High Cholesterol Is Hereditary with Familial Hypercholesterolemia
Familial Hypercholesterolemia (also known as FH) is the main genetic cause of high cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, it begins to manifest at an early age. Many people with this condition experience symptoms as early as their 20s.
Typically, people with this condition have above average levels of what dietitians called low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This is what people would deem the “bad cholesterol.” The reason it is bad is because it has a tendency to block up your arteries.
Everyone has LDL in their body, but most only have healthy levels of it. On average, a person should only have about 100 mg/dL of LDL in their blood. People with FH, on the other hand, have a level above 160 mg/dL, sometimes even higher at 400.
But if you fail to do so, you will have a much higher risk later in life of coronary artery disease. This is the sort of disease that gives you heart attacks and other significant heart issues at a much earlier age.
How Common Is FH?
Approximately one in every 250 people worldwide have FH. And in some extreme cases, one in every 160,000 have more severe cases. It also depends on where you are from; some areas of the Levant, South Africa, and Eastern Europe have higher instances.
Unfortunately, a large portion of people that have FH are not aware they have it. This is why it is essential to get a diagnosis if you notice any symptoms of heart disease at a younger age.
Symptoms of FH
As we’ve said before, the main problem with the bad type of cholesterol is artery blockage. Unfortunately, FH means that this process of artery blockage can begin very young. Some people with FH begin to experience high LDL levels as a newborn.
If you have FH, you may experience the following:
- Chest pain
- Sudden death
- Heart attacks when you are still young
- Strokes or conditions with similar symptoms
- Calf cramps
Conditions that Result from FH
People who keep a balance between their HDL and LDL cholesterol can reduce or eliminate those symptoms. That said, failure to treat FH may lead to the following symptoms:
- Coronary artery disease
- Corneal arcus
- Aortic aneurysm
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Peripheral artery disease
How to Treat FH
The good news is that people who stay on top of their treatment can live lives equal to those who don’t have FH. Most people have an average or mild case of FH. But some have extreme cases, which will require more treatment.
The goal of any healthcare provider is to reduce your LDL level by at least 50%. This hopefully puts you within a normal, healthy range.
Treatment for Typical Cases of FH
The most effective treatment if you have normal FH is medication. You will be taking statins, a type of medication that reduces your LDL count.
Treatment for Above Average Cases of FH
If your FH condition is worse than average, then you may require additional medication. This is especially in the case of homozygous FH. This means that you inherited FH from both of your parents, rather than just one.
In addition to statins, you may be taking PCSK9 inhibitors. You may also need to go in for the occasional dialysis appointment, particularly LDL apheresis.
In the most extreme cases, you may need a liver transplant. This allows you to better process LDL and reduce artery blockage.
How to Diet with FH
Medication will be necessary if you have FH. Unfortunately, you cannot simply make some lifestyle changes to treat it. That said, observing a particular diet will help in the long run.
- Reduce your intake of saturated fats
- Cut down on trans fats
- Consume less cholesterol in general
- Build a diet with a focus on lean poultry, fish, low-fat dairy food, and vegetables
- Up your fiber intake, particularly soluble fiber
- Eat tons of vegetables, particularly whole grains, fruit, legumes, and nuts
- Avoid eating egg yolks
Manage High Cholesterol Today
High cholesterol is hereditary if you have FH. This condition may lead you to have much earlier occurrences of heart issues than the rest of the population. Fortunately, treatment is as simple as taking some medication and making a few dietary changes. Keep up with your health and fitness by reading our blog articles.