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Familial Hyperlipidemia - What is it?

Updated on August 2, 2016

Familial Hyperlipidemia (FH) is an inherited condition; that is, you get it from your parents – one or both of them.

The condition means that there are raised blood levels of total cholesterol (click here for normal cholesterol levels) and/or raised LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and/or raised triglycerides. When levels of these types of cholesterol are raised, there is a greater risk of heart disease.

High levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) gives a protective effect against heart disease.

The condition causes the blood cholesterol levels to be raised despite a healthy diet and lifestyle because the body is producing too much LDL cholesterol from the liver.

There are several different types and classifications of FH according to which type of cholesterol is raised and which symptoms you might have.

Symptoms of FH include:

  • High cholesterol or triglyceride levels during the teenage years.
  • Symptoms of heart disease at a young age – narrowing of the heart’s arteries causing angina, especially when exercising.
  • Obesity
  • Raised glucose levels in the blood.
  • Fatty deposits on the eyelids or skin.
  • There may be no symptoms.

Diabetes, an underactive thyroid, alcoholism, anorexia and some medical conditions and drugs can make the problem worse.


How is Familial Hyperlipidaemia treated?

Doctors aim to prevent (or reduce the risk of) heart disease and heart attacks for people who have FH.

  • It is important to follow your doctor or Health Care Professional’s advice about a healthy diet (click here for info on cholesterol lowering foods), exercise and weight management, smoking and alcohol intake.
  • Everyone (including people with FH) should aim to do some sort of exercise at least 5 days a week. This means about 30 minutes of activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you out of breath. It could be dancing, swimming, walking, running or working out at the gym.
  • Talk to your Health Care Professional to find something that’s right for you because exercise is an important part of losing weight and maintaining the right weight.
  • Stop smoking – get professional help if you need it.
  • Take alcohol in moderation without binge drinking.
  • Cholesterol medications may be prescribed for you and they should be taken as directed. If you have side effects with the cholesterol medications then discuss this with your doctor. S/he will be able to advise you about alternatives or how to avoid the side effects.

It’s really important that you take these medicines as they will reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.


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