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Do You Have Genetic Heart Disease?

Do You Have Genetic Heart Disease?

Members of the punk rock band Dropdead have also played with crust-punk and grind-core bands Exploding Corpse Action and Conniption. (We don’t make this stuff up, folks.) Because they’re in an underground music scene, they’re easy to miss.

And if you have familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH)—a genetic condition that causes hyped-up levels of lousy LDL cholesterol reaching 400mg/dL or higher—and don’t deal with it, you could develop a health conniption. The problem: FH is an underground condition.

In the U.S. alone over 1.3 million people have this disease, yet only 10 percent know it. By age 50 men with FH have a 50 percent higher chance of heart attack (more than 30% drop dead), and by age 60 women have a 30 percent higher risk than folks without the condition.

Fortunately, researchers from Queen Mary University of London may have a diagnostic solution: Both child and parents, whether or not they’re aware of a family risk, should be screened for FH when the one- to two-year-old gets vaccinated (84 percent of British families are now doing this). Research shows about one in every 270 kids has FH and every child identified with the disorder will have at least one parent who’s passed them the gene.

So, ask about the test when you take your child to the pediatrician, or if your kids are older, consider a family screening—especially if you have any relative who had a heart attack in their 50s or younger.

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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