Patient Focus

CardioSmart WorldNews | Maybe You’re Born With It: Familial Hypercholesterolemia

High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are usually caused by a high-fat diet, lack of exercise and older age. However, people with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) are born with it – placing them at an especially high risk of heart disease and death.

Unfortunately 90% of people with FH don’t know they have it and, thus, do not receive the necessary treatment. The risk is even higher in people who have other risk factors such as smoking or diabetes. In contrast, when FH is diagnosed and treated early, cholesterol can be lowered and cardiovascular risk can go down to that of the general population.

Finding and treating FH early is critical, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Possible signs include chest pain; peripheral vascular disease; bumps on the tendons, around the eyes or on the tops of hands; a white ring around the upper and lower portions of the cornea in the eye; and carotid artery disease. Knowing family history is also vital for early detection. Individuals with a close family member who developed heart disease early in life should talk with their doctor about FH.

For people diagnosed with FH, treatment is need to lower LDL cholesterol. Along with lipid-lowering and other medications, a healthy diet, regular exercise, weight loss and quitting smoking can be important. Visit CardioSmart.org for more information on FH, including a new free infographic that can be shared with patients and fact sheets offering patient-friendly tips for managing cholesterol.

Drinking in Moderation? Maybe Not

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis may lead to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a review paper published in JACC.

While more than 100 previous studies have shown that a light to moderate intake of alcohol can actually be good for some people and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, this is not the case when it comes to AF. According to the paper, many people who are consuming one to two glasses of alcohol per day may not realize they are putting themselves at risk.

The authors note that more research is needed to determine the specific causes responsible for the relationship between alcohol and AF. Additionally, more research is needed to determine whether patients with irregular heartbeats should avoid alcohol completely.

“People who continue to consume alcohol at moderate rates may also notice their irregular heartbeats become more frequent,” explains Peter M. Kistler, MBBS, PhD, an author of the study. “This is concerning, because it can lead to serious issues, such as heart failure and stroke. So even though we do not have randomized data that tells us what a ‘safe’ amount is to consume, people with an irregular heartbeat should probably drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day with two alcohol free days a week.”

Read the full December issue of CardioSource WorldNews at ACC.org/CSWN

Keywords: CardioSource WorldNews


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