When it comes to personal health, there are a lot of actions we can take to keep our bodies in top shape — exercise, getting sleep, annual checkups, proper nutrition, and more. While all of those are essential elements for staying healthy, it’s important to remember that there are parts of our health that are out of our control, such as genetics. High cholesterol is one health issue that we usually blame on a poor diet, but did you know that’s not always the case? Many people are born with a condition that makes their cholesterol levels high, which they inherited from their family.
So how do you know if you have this condition? We have the answers for you. Here’s what you need to know about high cholesterol and genetics.
What Genes Cause High Cholesterol?
Familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, is caused by mutations in the PCSK9, LDLR, LDLRAP1, or APOB genes. The body has trouble recycling LDL — bad cholesterol — and as a result, the body creates more. This means that people with FH have naturally high LDL levels, making it a challenge to keep cholesterol at healthy levels. Having high cholesterol can cause buildup in your arteries and veins, increasing your risk for heart diseases.
How Common Is FH?
Although many people may not have heard about it before, FH is pretty common, affecting 1 in 500 people. It’s usually inherited from one parent, but in some rarer cases, it can be inherited from both. This particular version of FH (homozygous FH) makes cholesterol levels extremely high, requiring more immediate treatment. Children have a 50% chance of inheriting FH from their parents, so if you have a family history of FH, the likelihood of getting it is fairly high.
What Are the Symptoms of FH?
In a lot of cases, there are no symptoms for FH, which is why a lot of people aren’t diagnosed until they start having heart issues. In the United States, it’s estimated that less than 10% of individuals have been properly diagnosed. However, physical symptoms do show up on occasion. Some people get fatty deposits on their Achilles tendons, tendons in their hands, elbows, or even around their eyes.
How Do I Know If I Have High Cholesterol If I Don’t Have Any Symptoms?
Getting a diagnosis is actually pretty simple. Your doctor can order a blood test and genetic testing can let you know whether you have it or not.
Why Do I Have High Cholesterol If I’m Vegan or Vegetarian?
While staying away from saturated fats is encouraged, it’s often not enough just to change to a healthier diet if you have genetic factors influencing your high cholesterol. While diet alone isn’t enough in these cases, having a healthy, balanced diet is important to overall health and lowering your risk factors for heart disease in general.
What Happens If Cholesterol Genetics Are Not Treated?
Here are some of the physical symptoms you might experience if Familial hypercholesterolemia isn’t treated.
- Fatty skin deposits on ankles, knees, hands, elbows, and eyes
- Calf cramping
- Chest pain
- Sores on toes that don’t heal
- Stroke symptoms — arm weakness, leg weakness, loss of balance, drooping on one side of face, etc.
Treatment helps reduce the risk of having atherosclerotic heart disease. This happens when cholesterol causes plaque buildup in your arteries—slowing blood flow and potentially breaking off to form blood clots that lead to heart attacks or strokes.
While it’s important to understand how serious Familial hypercholesterolemia and high cholesterol is, it’s also important to know that there are effective, easily accessible treatments that can effectively lower your cholesterol. The sooner you know whether you have high cholesterol and get on a path towards treatment, the better your health will be in the long run.
How Do I Manage FH?
Since diet alone can’t solve FH, your doctor will be able to provide you with medications that are designed to help lower your cholesterol. For those with homozygous FH, there are dialysis-type treatments that can help regularly clear out LDL.
While FH is a serious condition, know that it can be treated! If you’re worried about your health or if you’re not sure if this condition runs in your family, don’t hesitate to visit your doctor. Putting off checking your cholesterol won’t make high cholesterol go away.
Take a proactive approach to your health and get peace of mind. If you have FH, you and your doctor can create an effective plan to treat and manage it so you live a long and healthy life.
How Brilliant Can Help
At Brilliant, we formulate supplements from the bioactive compounds found in nature. Control is an all-natural cholesterol support supplement that can help you manage your high cholesterol genetics without drugs. Learn more about Control Cholesterol Support.