A newly developed screening and registry program will help identify Americans affected with a genetic disorder that can lead to sudden, often fatal heart attacks in early adulthood. The program, which has begun in the United States and 14 other countries, attempts to locate family members and relatives who have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a condition that causes sky-high cholesterol levels in childhood.
"One American in every 500 has FH. When untreated, the disorder typically causes heart attacks in men between the ages of 40 and 55 and in women between the ages of 50 and 65. In addition, because high cholesterol typically does not cause symptoms until arteries are blocked, most people do not know they're affected, even though a parent or other relative with a condition has died at a young age," according to Roger Williams, MD, professor of medicine and founder/ director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Research Clinic at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
The program uses genealogical research and physician contact to locate individuals with FH, trace their relatives and provide treatment and support to affected individuals and information to their health professionals.
"If your untreated total cholesterol level is more than 360 mg/dl and your untreated triglycéride level is normal (below 250 mg/ dl), then you are eligible for free help, and you should contact the MEDPED (Making Early Diagnosis-Prevent Early Deaths) Coordinating Center for more information," said Williams. "If you have FH, you could be a walking time bomb, and writing to us could save your life."
To obtain free patient information about FH and MED-PED, individuals should send their name, address, phone number, age, untreated total cholesterol and triglycéride levels, and self-addressed, businesssized envelope to MEDPED FH, 410 Chipeta Way, Room 161, Salt Lake City, UT 84108.