Health a family matter

Lisa Lindner, of Leeming, with her sons Ari and Eamon have all been diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolaemia. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d425456
Lisa Lindner, of Leeming, with her sons Ari and Eamon have all been diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolaemia. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d425456

Ms Lindner and sons Ari (6) and Eamon (4) have all been diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol.

If left untreated, FH leads to aggressive and premature heart disease and increases a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke at a relatively young age.

Next Wednesday is FH Awareness Day and doctors and support groups hope to publicise the condition and how vital it is that people are aware they have the condition so treatment can begin early in life.

The head of Royal Perth Hospital’s lipid disorders clinic, Professor Gerald Watts, said FH was a silent killer because many people were not aware they had it until they had a heart attack. He said 80 per cent of people were currently undiagnosed, which is about 5000 people in WA, with about 1000 of those being children.

Prof Watts said it was a dangerous condition when left untreated, with half of its sufferers having heart attacks before the age of 50 for men and 60 for women.

Ms Lindner said when her brother died when he was 30, his autopsy showed he also had advanced atherosclerosis.

‘The doctors said his heart disease was that advanced that he would have had a massive heart attack or stroke within five to seven years,’ she said.

‘I was 27 at the time and as a result of my brother’s autopsy findings, my doctor ran blood tests on me and my cholesterol levels were extremely high. Further testing found that I had FH.

‘My boys were tested quite young and at first it was very upsetting to know that I had passed on the genetic condition, but after speaking with the paediatric specialist and the FH Support Group I now feel very blessed that we are aware that they are affected so they can have a better outcome than my brother.’

Treatment includes taking statin medications, regular exercise and eating well.

The boys are too young for medication, but are regularly monitored by a specialist.

‘They are aware they have FH and I can give them a healthy lifestyle to guide them to make the right choices to help them lead a long and healthy life,’ Ms Lindner said.