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Families to get cholesterol tests

19th August 2008

Families in the UK will, if expected guidance goes ahead, be screened for a disease which causes very high cholesterol levels and is linked to heart disease.

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The condition, known as familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), is thought to affect around 110,000 people in Britain.

Brothers, sisters and the offspring of people with FH have a 50% chance of having the condition themselves.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance, due next week, is expected to say that children should be tested for the condition.

If one person from a family is diagnosed, then there is a strong probability that another family member will also have FH.

The condition causes "unusually high cholesterol levels from birth and often goes unnoticed until an individual's 30s or 40s when the first symptom could be a heart attack".

If FH is diagnosed, the symptoms can be managed using statin treatment, diet and exercise.

Two statin treatments are available for treating children who have the condition in the UK.

Expert Dr Dermot Neely of the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, for the cholesterol charity Heart UK, said: "We need to identify FH as early as possible to treat in childhood to prevent heart attacks in early adulthood.

"We have about 100,000 people with FH to find."

 

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