- People with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) are at greater risk of heart disease
- 1 in 250 people in the UK are believed to have FH
- Over 260,000 people in the UK may have FH, with fewer than 10% diagnosed
- 56,000 children in the UK may have FH but only 600 of these are known
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Treatment for People with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH)
Most of the people who have been diagnosed with the inherited genetic high cholesterol condition Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) are offered a combination of a medicine, called a statin, and guidance and support to improve their diet and lifestyle. If you have just been diagnosed with FH, your doctor should discuss the options for treatment with you. Ideally you should be referred to a specialist who is an expert in treating people with FH. You will usually be seen in a “lipid clinic” as an outpatient.
Most adults are prescribed a high potency statin such as Rosuvastatin or Atorvastatin. These medicines are very effective at lowering LDL cholesterol and at preventing heart disease. Statins are generally safe, well tolerated and are widely used. Treatment is usually lifelong. The aim is to reduce your LDL cholesterol level by at least half or more.
Watch ► Prof Steve Humphries, Professor of Cardio Vascular Genetics at University College in London, discuss how statin treatment can very significantly extend life expectancy.
Statins work by blocking an enzyme in the liver which is needed to produce cholesterol. Because your liver is making less cholesterol it will try and collect more cholesterol from the circulation. This causes your LDL cholesterol level to drop. You can find out more about how statins work in our Familial Hypercholesterolemia educational booklet. You can get your own copy of this useful booklet by calling or emailing our Cholesterol Helpline.
It is important to be given support and guidance by a dietitian or another health professional with expertise in nutrition. All the family can benefit by following the same healthy routine. You can find out more about the type of diet that is recommended by visiting our cholesterol and diet pages. The Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan (UCLP) is HEART UK's very own cholesterol lowering diet.
A few people with FH might be offered LDL apheresis. This is a procedure where the blood is regularly cleaned of cholesterol by passing it through a machine. It is a bit like kidney dialysis. Each treatment involves being in hospital for about 4 hours and the treatment usually needs repeating every 2 weeks.
There are only a few units across the country that can offer LDL apheresis. Typically it is offered to patients whose cholesterol levels cannot easily be controlled by medicines and lifestyle alone.
How often will I need to see my doctor?
When you are first diagnosed you may need to see your doctor quite often to check if your treatment is working. Afterwards your doctor will probably want to review your treatment about once a year.