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HEART UK - The Cholesterol Charity
7 North Road
T. 0345 450 5988
Normal Helpline hours: Monday - Friday from 10am to 3pm
Dietetic advice available in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi on Fridays
It was thanks to free health checks at work that Traci discovered she was living with type 3 hyperlipidaemia. Around 5 years ago, her employers were offering them to all employees, little did she know that it was a decision that would change her life. As part of the check she had a fingerprick test, which showed that her cholesterol levels were higher than 7.5 mmol/L. The nurse was concerned with how high it was so advised her to make an appointment with her GP for a fasting blood test. When her results for that came through, she was shocked to see that her cholesterol levels were 14.8 mmol/L and triglycerides at 14.4. The GP immediately advised her to eat a healthy diet and referred her to the local lipid clinic.
She was initially diagnosed as having familial combined hyperlipidaemia (FCH). However, almost 2 years ago, her doctor informed her that she actually had type 3 hyperlipidaemia, an inherited lipid disorder which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Receiving the wrong diagnosis was frustrating for Traci as the treatment she had been undergoing wasn’t working—she couldn’t reduce her levels any lower than 7 mmol/L. Also, a few years before the health check at work, she saw her GP about a lump on her elbow, a xanthoma—a fatty cholesterol filled lump indicative of type 3 hyperlipidaemia. At the time, as it wasn’t causing her any distress or pain, it wasn’t diagnosed as anything to be worried about.
Armed with this new diagnosis, she panicked; Traci worried she was going to have a heart attack or stroke and concerned that her three children may also have the condition. They have since been tested and, thankfully, are not positive for the gene. However, type 3 hyperlipidaemia symptoms can appear at any time and the condition can be caused by other factors even if you don’t have the gene.
Since starting treatment and embarking on a healthy diet, Traci’s cholesterol levels have decreased to 3.9 mmol/L. She met with a dietitian who advised her to eat a completely fat-free diet; this means no fat, no sugar, no alcohol and no red meat. Traci found it hard to begin with as she had to cut out everything she loved, such as cheese and sugar and semi-skimmed milk in her coffee. Keeping fit has also been a struggle as she broke her ankle 10 years ago, but now she is able to get out on her bike and swim often. She just takes a fibrate now as she experienced problems with statins, including leg pains and muscle cramp.
“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t really receive any advice or support. Most of my information about the condition has come from HEART UK, which I was told about on my first visit to the clinic. The charity has been the biggest lifeline to me; I know I have access to nurses and dietitians via the helpline and if they don’t know the answer, they find out.”