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The Role of Genetics in Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

The Role of Genetics in Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

The Role of Genetics in Cholesterol: What You Need to Know
16 May 2024

Genetics influence your eyes colour, assign your type of blood and make those cute dimples in your cheeks. But parents might have passed it with something else and it can be high cholesterol. An inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) can increase the risk of getting heart disease at an early age. For some people, this can mean in their 20s.

Nearly 1 in 250 people are born with higher levels of low-density lipoprotein or LDL which is the bad kind of cholesterol. What’s the positive news? Taking certain medications and changes in your lifestyle can keep the cholesterol level in check even when you have FH. The key is to know you have FH. Regretfully, an estimation of 90% people with FH does not have the knowledge.

How to know whether you have genetic high cholesterol symptoms

For starters, most people do not have high cholesterol levels genetically. If your cholesterol is high, chances are you can get it old-fashioned with a questionable diet, a lack of exercise and aging process.

But FH does remain and deserves to be taken seriously. You can have people at age 18 get a heart attack because of it. So, what should you know to know whether you are at greater risk? Try to collect the health history of your family and if your parents have FH-based high cholesterol, chances are you might be having it too.

People who have FH lack a specific protein known as an LDL receptor. This will work to get bad cholesterol out of their blood. Having a defective LDL receptor can be the reason for FH. It is a genetic condition which might pass on from generation to generation.

The most serious form of this condition is known as homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. This takes place when both parents have the changed DNA causing FH and passes it on to their children.

The second type of FH is called heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia and it is more common. This condition occurs when one parent does not have the LDL receptor.

When you should begin testing for higher cholesterol level

All children should get their first cholesterol screening in the age group of 9 and 11 years. Testing may start as early as when the child is only 2 years if the risk levels are higher. The cholesterol screenings can be conducted with what you call a lipid panel blood test. It helps to find people who are at greater risk so that they can be evaluated closely and adjust with their diet. It is advisable to perform cholesterol level screening at the age of 20 years. If you have increased risk factors, screenings should be done every year. Otherwise, you should try to get tested at least once in every five years.

Early signs and symptoms

There is a reason many people do not know they have high cholesterol. In simple words, cholesterol is a fat-like and waxy substance present in the blood. If there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it will accumulate in the blood vessels.

This buildup might clog the blood vessels and prevent the blood from passing on to the brain or heart. This can be the reason for a heart attack or stroke. Without proper screening, many people will find they have higher cholesterol levels.

There can be visible signs of FH in extreme cases. These symptoms include:

  • Skin bumps due to build up of cholesterol on your Achilles tendon, elbow, hands (xanthomas) or knee.
  • White ring around your eyes cornea (corneal arcus).
  • Yellow cholesterol deposits around the eyelids or xanthelasmas.

How to deal with unhealthy cholesterol levels in the body

Getting diagnosed with higher cholesterol means you have either a high level of total cholesterol or high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Total cholesterol is sometimes what you call serum cholesterol. It is the sum of HDL and LDL cholesterol and 20% of your triglycerides are a type of fat. LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol may be used in the form of indicators for the risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well as other types of complications.

Several risk factors can lead to unhealthy levels of cholesterol such as – genetics, lifestyle choices or a combination of the two.

  • Familial hypercholesterolemia

When you know you have high cholesterol or FH, it is the ultimate key to keep it in check. There aren’t any effective ways to manage high cholesterol. Even though you have a significant family history, chances are you will be able to prevent heart disease. Take medications to lower cholesterol level and eat a healthy diet to lessen the risk of heart disease by at least 80%.

  • Obesity

Obesity is a body mass index or BMI of 30 or higher. Having a large waist circumference means 40 or more inches for men and 35 or more inches for women. The fat which builds up in your waist enhances the risk of elevated cholesterol and other cardiovascular problems.

  • Increased blood sugar

High glucose levels can decrease HDL cholesterol and enhance LDL cholesterol. Higher levels of glucose in the blood can cause damage to the arteries lining which increases the risk of fatty deposits accumulation into the arteries.

  • Medication for FH

There are prescription medications called statins for reducing LDL levels by at least 50% or more. It is sufficient to bring higher cholesterol levels into the normal range. Most people with FH require taking medications other than statins.

  • Eating healthy food for good heart condition

Select the right foods on your plate that can control your cholesterol level. The objective is to avoid eating saturated fats, which are abundant in:

  1. Meats such as lamb, pork, beef and poultry.
  2. Fried foods.
  3. Dairy products like cheese, ice cream and butter.
  4. Tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil.

Are you interested in a diet which targets high cholesterol levels? Contact your GP book a blood profile test at our clinic today. They can give proper recommendations on popular eating plans that will help you to eat the right food and stay on the track.