Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH)
people are born with
familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which is a genetic
condition. FH results in exceptionally high levels of
cholesterol in your blood.
FH is one of the most common inherited conditions. If you have
FH, you might have had high cholesterol from birth. You also have a
higher risk of getting heart disease at an early age if the
condition is left untreated.
Is FH a common cause of high cholesterol?
For most people, high cholesterol is not genetic. Many people
have high cholesterol levels because they:
- eat too much saturated fat
- are overweight
- are not physically active, or
- have an underactive thyroid gland or long-term kidney
How does FH cause high cholesterol?
If you have FH, your liver can’t remove enough of the bad type
of cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) from your blood. This means that
the bad type of cholesterol in your blood remains
This can cause a gradual build-up of fatty material in your
coronary arteries otherwise known as
atheroma. Other risk factors like
high blood pressure or
smoking can also contribute to atheroma.
Why does my doctor think I have FH?
FH is not easy to diagnose. Your doctor may suspect FH
- a routine blood test shows you have a high cholesterol
- you have a heart attack or stroke, especially if it happens at
a young age
- other members of your family have a history of premature
coronary heart disease or stroke
- other members of your family have been diagnosed with FH,
- you or your doctor have noticed other changes to your body that
may suggest you have FH.
Is there a cure for FH?
There isn’t a cure for FH, but it can be treated successfully.
The treatment can reduce your risk of getting heart disease, having
a heart attack or stroke, or needing other treatment. If you or
your child is diagnosed with FH, speak with your doctor about the
best treatment plan.
Many people with FH take a medicine called a statin,
which helps lower your cholesterol levels. You should
also make sure that you have a
healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and take
plenty of exercise.
If you have further questions about inherited
heart conditions, our
Genetic Information Service can help you. For even
more information about high cholesterol, contact Heart UK.