Hypercholesterolemia and Diet Plan
What is Hypercholesterolemia?
High cholesterol levels are common among humans. High cholesterol levels are known to cause heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, cancer and other diseases. A high level of cholesterol in your blood is one of the major risk factors for developing these diseases.
The main causes of high cholesterol include:
Diabetes (high blood sugar)
Obesity (a higher body weight)
Excess consumption of saturated fats and trans fat, which increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood
Smoking (which interferes with healthy HDL cholesterol)
Lack of exercise (which lowers HDL cholesterol levels)
If you have one of these risk factors, or multiple factors, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a medical test to more precisely quantify your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
What is Familial hypercholesterolemia?
Familial hypercholesterolemia (abbreviated as FH) is an inherited condition that affects a large number of LDL cholesterol carriers. It is a common cause of high cholesterol and there is a 50% chance that an individual who carries the LDL-C gene will develop FH if their parents both carry it.
The only way to know for sure if you have FH is to get a genetic test. The test is simple, painless and inexpensive. Many laboratories offer the test and a list of these laboratories can be obtained from your doctor or online.
A positive result means that you have FH and a negative result means that you do not have FH. If you are unsure, you should be tested.
Once known, FH can be managed with a special diet and exercise plan that is highly effective in reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
What are the symptoms of FH?
People with FH usually do not have any symptoms of this condition.
When it is detected and treated early, high cholesterol levels are usually controlled with diet. In rare cases, when the condition is severe, medicine may be necessary in addition to a special diet to reduce cholesterol.
How is it treated?
There is no cure for FH, but it can be managed with proper medical supervision and a special diet.
If you are diagnosed with FH, your doctor will put you on a special diet. This diet may be as simple as cutting back on saturated fat and eating more fish, soybeans, certain nuts and vegetables. It also may be as complex as preparing all your meals at home with pre-packaged ingredients that you buy from the chemist.
In any case, your dietitian will put together a special meal plan that is best suited to manage the over-production of cholesterol in your body.
Your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medicine, such as:
Statins (commonly known as “statin drugs” or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors)
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
Resins (cholesterol absorption inhibitors)
If you are a child with FH, your doctor may recommend that you take a baby aspirin to prevent stroke or heart attack in the future. In addition to a special diet, cholesterol-lowering medicine may be necessary if the condition is severe.
How can FH be prevented?
The only sure way to prevent FH is to get a genetic test to see if you carry the LDL-C gene.
If you do not carry the LDL-C gene, you do not have FH and you can’t pass it on to your children. If you carry one copy of the LDL-C gene, there is a 50% chance that your children will inherit the gene and be at high risk of developing FH. If you carry two copies of the LDL-C gene, your children will certainly inherit the gene and be at high risk of developing FH.
It is also possible to have a negative genetic test but still be at risk of developing FH. If you have a family history of the condition, you may want to get tested.
Most often FH is diagnosed during a routine cholesterol test. If you are unsure if you or your child has FH, talk to your doctor about getting a genetic test.
What research is being done?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) provides information on clinical trials through its Web site. You can search for clinical trials online to see if there are any tests being conducted that may be appropriate for you. Individuals who are eligible to participate in clinical trials are encouraged to do so.
Some of the current studies being conducted on Familial Hypercholesterolemia include:
Treating FH with Statins in Children
Treating FH with Ezetimibe
Uncovering the Causes of FH
Conducting Research on FH
MicroRNA and FH
Genetics of FH
Treating FH During Pregnancy
Treating FH in Adults
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
For additional research on Familial Hypercholesterolemia, visit NCBI PubMed.
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