High cholesterol runs in my family and Matthew’s family. When our pediatrician did bloodwork to check my oldest son’s cholesterol I was so grateful. Thankfully the results came back normal, but what if they hadn’t?
September is Cholesterol Education Month, which is why I am pleased to partner with Med-IQ on this important campaign to help generate awareness around inherited forms of very high cholesterol and how to advocate for your own treatment course with your healthcare team. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. Links to outside organizations are provided as a resource; linked content is not endorsed by Med-IQ.
Have your child’s cholesterol checked
While I think adults know that it is important to have our cholesterol checked, it is also important for children. Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all kids should be screened for high blood cholesterol (a simple blood panel) between the ages of 9-11 years old and again at age 17-21*unless* they have certain risk factors, in which case they should be screened at 2 years old?
Risk factors for high cholesterol in children include:
- A family history of cardiovascular disease (such as heart attack, stroke, blocked arteries), particularly in younger relatives (55 years old or earlier in men, 65 years or earlier in women)
- A family history of very high cholesterol (for example in one or both parents).
This means my kids should have been tested at 2, instead of at 11 which is when my pediatrician does screenings. (I definitely plan to ask about this at my kids’ next appointment.) Current data shows that only 4-17% of kids are screened for cholesterol levels between the ages of 9-11 years old. Most children will have a normal cholesterol level! But it is valuable to know the numbers.
If your child’s pediatrician doesn’t offer a cholesterol panel as part of routine care, this is something parents can request. Be sure to share family history of heart disease, stroke, or high cholesterol with your child’s pediatrician and request your child’s full panel results, including the child’s LDL numbers.
Will you help? Take this survey and maybe win $100
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about inherited forms of high cholesterol and your care team, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you've completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 3 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.
Last time I partnered with Med-IQ two of the three winners were my readers – so fun and easy!
Familial Hypercholesterolemia or FH
I also wanted to share about a life-threatening but treatable condition that can be found from those screenings I mentioned above. The following information was provided to me by MEDIQ:
Sometimes very high cholesterol ( >160 LDL cholesterol in children or >190 in adults) is caused by an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia or FH. This genetic disorder affects how the liver clears LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” kind of cholesterol) from the blood resulting in very high levels of LDL-cholesterol from birth. I had never heard of this condition before, and incredibly, according to the FH Foundation, 1 in 5 heart attacks under the age of 45 years old are due to FH. The two subtypes of FH are Heterozygous FH or HeFH and Homozygous or HoFH.
HeFH is a very common disorder, affecting ~1 in 250 people, yet only about 20% of patients are diagnosed. LDL cholesterol is commonly >190 mg/dL in persons with HeFH (twice the recommended level).
HoFH is a rare disorder, affecting ~1 in 300,000 people. A person with HoFH typically has LDL-cholesterol levels >400 (4 times the recommended level) and often as high as 800 or even 1,000 mg/dL! HoFH is a more severe form of FH with atherosclerosis often detected in childhood. Unfortunately, even people with HoFH are diagnosed late. If HoFH is suspected, it is important to see a lipid specialist as soon as possible and to connect with the FH Foundation for support and information.
The good news is, a variety of effective treatments are available to lower LDL cholesterol to help prevent heart disease, beginning with statins. However, HoFH is usually more difficult to treat than HeFH and typically requires multiple lipid-lowering treatments. Luckily, new therapies are now available to help treat HoFH so check with a lipid specialist.
If your child is diagnosed with one of these, treatment for HeFH can begin at age 8 or 10 and treatment for HoFH begins immediately at diagnosis. There is no need to wait until after puberty to begin treatment. It is important that girls and young women are treated early because they will need to pause treatment during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Lipid specialists can help reach those LDL goals.
I was compensated by Med-IQ, the National Lipid Association and the FH Foundation, through an educational grant from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to write about familial hypercholesterolemia. All opinions are my own.