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Genetics and Cholesterol

Your body plays a major role in producing and managing levels of LDL cholesterol.

Learn about the relationship between cholesterol and genetics

It Runs in the Family

For some people, diet and exercise don’t tell their whole cholesterol story. But knowing your family’s medical history can help fill in some of the blanks.

People with a family history of high LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease have a statistically higher chance of developing those conditions themselves.

But for some, it may go even further. They suffer from a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH for short), specific gene mutations that prevent them from removing excess bad cholesterol—called LDL cholesterol (LDL-C)—from the body.

Help Someone You Care About Take Down Cholesterol

There are two types of FH:

The signs and symptoms are similar to those of HeFH, but appear much earlier in childhood, act more aggressively and are more likely to show physical signs.

Just because your LDL-C levels and family medical history may point to the possibility, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have FH. Talking to your healthcare provider or a cholesterol specialist (called a lipidologist) can help answer questions and determine whether or not high LDL-C runs in your family.

Having the FH gene increases your chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke by about 20 times that of the general population. So it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider whether or not you should be tested. They’ll need to run a lipid panel blood test (that shows your LDL-C, HDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides) with additional genetic testing to confirm.

If it turns out your LDL-C is high, you may want to suggest to other family members that they have their cholesterol tested as well. Knowing your levels will help you and your healthcare provider with finding the right treatment.