There is no one season to think about your heart, and heart health is important every day of the year. Understanding your risk factors for heart disease is a great first step towards taking care of your heart.

For instance, does high cholesterol run in your family?  In some families this is caused by a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH causes lifelong high levels of cholesterol which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease. In families with FH, these high cholesterol levels are caused by genetic changes, called mutations, in several different genes.  FH mutations can be passed down from parent to child. This means that if one parent has FH then each child has a 50% chance of also having the disease. Genetic testing is available to help diagnose FH.

An estimated 1 in 300 to 1 in 500 people carry an FH mutation. In fact, 9 out of 10 people with FH have not yet been properly diagnosed.1 The chance of having a heart attack is increased when FH is left untreated. By age 50, men with FH have a 50% higher chance of heart attack than men who do not have FH. By age 60, women with FH have a 30% higher chance of heart attack than women without FH.2

It is important to know if you have FH, so you are aware of potential risks to other family members, especially your children.  Knowing if you have FH also helps your doctor know how best to treat your high cholesterol. Proper treatment can greatly lower the chance of premature heart disease.

You can find more information about FH and testing by speaking with your health care provider or by visiting websites, including the FH Foundation and QuestCardiogenetics.com.

If your doctor has questions about FH testing at Quest Diagnostics, then he or she can call 1.866.GENE.INFO (1.866.436.3463) to speak to a genetic counselor.

1. Nordestgaard BG et al. Eur Heart J. 2013;34:3478-3490.
2. Marks D, Thorogood M, Neil HA et al. A review on the diagnosis, natural history, and treatment of familial hypercholesterolemia. Atherosclerosis. 2003;168:1-14.