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Genetic Testing for High Cholesterol and Familial Hypercholesterolemia

Most people who have high cholesterol do not have any symptoms. As a result, they do not take this disease seriously. Some of them start taking it seriously after hearing that it has caused stroke or heart disease. This disease can affect anyone regardless of their age or gender. It is important to be on the lookout when it comes to high cholesterol.

Is High Cholesterol Hereditary?

High cholesterol is hereditary since it is a genetic disorder. Parents can pass genes that increase LDL cholesterol to their children. If any of your first-line family members has high cholesterol, there are high chances that you may also have it.

What Should You Do if High Cholesterol Runs in Your Family?

Since high cholesterol is hereditary, it is important to get tested early before developing complications such as heart disease.

With our Nutrition DNA Testing Kit, we can help you determine whether or not you’re predisposed to Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH). If you have already been diagnosed with high cholesterol, our Cardiovascular Health DNA Testing Kit can let you know which types of drugs you will respond best to, including statins, anti-coagulants, and more.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy component of the cell membranes needed for a variety of functions. Cholesterol aids in the production of bile, sex hormones, and other human tissues.

Our livers naturally make cholesterol, but you can also consume this substance from the foods that you eat. Lipoproteins carry this cell membrane component throughout the body since it cannot dissolve in the blood.

You may have heard your physician talk about LDL and HDL whenever they talk about cholesterol. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are both lipoproteins in which cholesterol travels.

LDL, often called the “bad” cholesterol, makes up a significant percentage of the cholesterol in our bodies. Too much of it leads to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. As a result, the arteries become narrow, making it difficult for oxygenated blood to pass through them. Blood clots and hardening of your arteries can occur when this lipoprotein accumulates within the arteries. High numbers of LDL can eventually lead to heart disease or stroke.

HDL, on the other hand, helps in removing LDL from the body. It is often called the “good” cholesterol and transports harmful cholesterol out of the body. Since this is a good lipoprotein, you should try to keep its levels high.

What Lifestyle and Environmental Factors Can Contribute to High Cholesterol?

Although high cholesterol can be inherited, different environmental and lifestyle factors often cause it, especially poor diet. Eating saturated fat, processed foods, red meat, microwave popcorns, and whole dairy products is likely to increase your bad cholesterol levels.

Smoking is another lifestyle factor that can also lead to high LDL levels. Cigarettes are proven to damage blood vessels, which in turn results in accumulating fatty deposits. Cigarettes also lower HDL levels, the lipoprotein that is responsible for reducing the levels of bad cholesterol.

Lack of exercise is another contributing factor. Regular activity boosts good cholesterol levels while also increasing LDL particles, making them less harmful.

A less controllable factor, natural aging can lead to high cholesterol since body chemistry changes as you get older. When you age, your liver's ability to remove the bad cholesterol reduces, so it’s even more important to eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise at this stage in life.

What Is Familial Hypercholesterolemia?

Around 1.3 million Americans have Familial Hypercholesterolemia, but only 10% of these people know that they have it. It is a form of high cholesterol that is genetically inherited.

Gene mutation for the LDL receptor causes this disorder. Other gene mutations, such as the PCSK9 mutation, can also cause this disorder.

When you have FH, the way your body recycles LDL cholesterol will be defective. As a result, your LDL cholesterol levels are likely to be high. In severe cases, the levels of LDL cholesterol can go as high as 190mg/dl. Such high levels of LDL cholesterol raise the risks of developing stroke and heart disease.

Several symptoms are associated with this disorder. They include painful or swollen Achilles tendons and bumps around the knees, elbows, and knuckles. If the areas around your eyes look yellowish or if the outside of your cornea looks whitish gray, you may be dealing with FH.

Some people who have this disorder show these symptoms, and others do not show any symptoms. So, it’s a good idea to go for an FH test if you think you may have this disorder. When you go for it, doctors will do genetic counseling, a physical examination, and several lab tests.

What Can I Do if I Have FH?

Although many researchers say that FH is undertreated, there is a lot that you can do to reduce the levels of LDL in your body, such as exercising and eating a balanced diet. Doing this will not treat this disorder, but it will help you manage its symptoms and increase your HDL cholesterol levels.

You can also take drugs that lower LDL cholesterol levels. Statins, bile acid sequestrants, and lipid-lowering drugs such as colesevelam and cholestyramine can lower the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood.

If these medications do not work for you, you can also opt for injectable medications. These medications lower bad cholesterol levels by blocking PCSK protein, freeing up receptors in the liver cells. LDL apheresis, a procedure that removes bad cholesterol from the blood, can also lower bad cholesterol levels.

Can I Pass FH To My Kids?

You have a 50% chance of passing FH to your kids if you have it. Whether you are the children's mother or father, you can pass an FH gene to them. The genders of the children do not matter when it comes to this genetic process.

If you have FH and your spouse does not have it, your children will inherit one FH gene. As a result, they will have heterozygous FH. If you and your spouse both have this disorder, your children will inherit two FH genes. As a result, they will have homozygous FH. If they get homozygous FH, they will have very high LDL cholesterol levels that can make them die when they are young. To avoid this, your children should seek medical care and even undergo bypass surgeries.

Bottom Line

High cholesterol is a common hereditary disorder that can be traced back through your family history and genetic testing. If you have been diagnosed, you have a 50% chance of passing it to your children, so they can also benefit from knowing their family history with this condition.

Order Dynamic DNA testing kits directly from our site for more insights into your genetic heart health and how you might respond to different pharmaceutical treatments. Our staff is also available to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to get in touch via phone or email.

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