GPs should screen for cholesterol28th August 2008
New guidance from the government’s health advisory body has called for relatives of people with inherited high cholesterol to be screened.
The ruling from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is designed to help prevent premature deaths and illness from heart disease.
Familial hypercholesterolaemia affects one in 500 people and is as common as type one diabetes.
However, only about 15,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with it.
But identifying cases and then screening relatives could mean 100,000 people who have not been diagnosed could get early treatment and improve their life expectancy.
Family doctors are being urged to ask those suspected of the condition about family history with the option of a statin being prescribed to help bring down levels of cholesterol.
GPs will also be directed to offer lifestyle advice, with NICE recommending patients are then reviewed annually.
Dr Rubin Minhas, the guideline development group chairman, said: "At the moment, we know that without treatment 50% of men with untreated familial hypercholesterolaemia will suffer a heart attack by the age of 50, and 30% of women by the age of 60.
"Once an individual is diagnosed, it can be managed, usually with a statin, to help them reach normal life expectancy."
The testing can involve relatives as young as 10 who can be offered similar advice and treatment if they have a positive diagnosis.
NICE say that young people being investigated should be able to see a specialist with expertise in familial hypercholesterolaemia in children.
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