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How to Tell If High Cholesterol Is Hereditary?

By Hannah Rice Myers ; Updated August 14, 2017

High cholesterol that is hereditary, or familial hypercholesterolaemia, results in high levels of LDL, otherwise known as bad cholesterol. These increased levels begin at birth, causing heart attacks at an early age. Unlike high cholesterol levels that normally occur due to poor eating habits or lack of exercise, familial hypercholesterolaemia happens naturally; it is due to an altered gene that parents carry. Those with this gene have a 50 percent chance of passing it on to their children, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Recognize the signs. Signs include a family history of high LDL levels, which is anything greater than 169 mg/dL, and a family history of early heart attacks, which for for men is in their 40s or 50s, and for women in their 50s or 60s. Waxy deposits of cholesterol in the skin are yet another indication. These may vary in size, with some being larger than 3 inches in diameter. These usually appear on joints, knees, hands, feet or buttocks and cholesterol deposits on the eyelids. These deposits are typically white to yellow in color.

Visit your doctor regularly. Physical examinations can detect cholesterol deposits, which you might not notice yourself if they are small enough. Your family history may prompt your doctor to look closer to locate these deposits.

Undergo a cholesterol test. Your doctor might order a blood test known as a lipid profile to check the amount of cholesterol in your blood. The National Human Genome Research Institute states that a total cholesterol above 300 mg/dL and an LDL higher than 250 mg/dL are both indicators of high cholesterol that is hereditary.

Make an appointment for a heart function test. Cardiologists usually perform a heart function test, or stress test. During this exam, you may be asked to walk on a treadmill for a certain period of time while the doctor adjusts the time and speed. Abnormal results are another indication of familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Talk to your doctor about genetic testing. Genetic testing may be the easiest ways to detect the abnormal gene that causes hereditary high cholesterol. Such testing may show an alteration in the LDL receptor gene that is responsible for clearing LDL from the body, explains the National Human Genome Research Institute.

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