Ask the experts

If my children’s father has FH, do my children have it too?

A FH researcher at work in the lab at University College London

I’m worried about my children, ages four, five and six, as their father has just been diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH). I asked at the surgery for them to be tested and was told there’s no way they can have high cholesterol at this age. What do I do now?

What are the chances of inheriting familial hypercholesterolemia? 

Professor Peter Weissberg says:

Their father’s FH is probably due to a faulty gene. Each child has a 50:50 chance of inheriting that gene and developing FH.

Even children with an FH gene do not develop ‘abnormally high’ cholesterol in childhood

Your GP is correct in saying that even children with an FH gene do not develop ‘abnormally high’ cholesterol in childhood, but they are likely to have higher cholesterol levels than are good for them in the long term, even though they are at little risk of cardiovascular disease until later in life.

Ideally, their father should undergo a genetic test to search for the faulty gene. If found, it is easy to discover if any of your children have inherited it. If they haven’t, they are not at risk of FH. If they have, specialist advice should be sought to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease in the future.

Some clinics specialise in advising children with FH. Your children’s father should ask his GP to refer him to a specialist lipid clinic for genetic testing.

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