How a Simple Blood Test Could Save Your Child’s Life
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) occurs in 1 in 250 people, including children
Your 42-year-old husband just had his first attack. You look at your 14-year-old son who looks just like his dad and you wonder if the same fate awaits your boy.
But how would a mom ever know if her child is at risk for cardiovascular disease?
That is the question that has propelled Cook Children’s work on developing a cardiovascular health and risk prevention program to help identify children with genetic and acquired cardiac risk factors. The program is led by Don Wilson, M.D., an endocrinologist and an Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Health and Risk Prevention at Cook Children’s.
“The best thing we can do is test the child and tell his mother, “No, he doesn’t have any evidence of a genetic cholesterol problem like his dad,’” Dr. Wilson said. “That would be the best scenario and when we have told moms that exact thing, the relief on that woman’s face is unbelievable. That’s what medicine is all about.”
Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes that the child is at risk for future cardiovascular disease. But Dr. Wilson said his team will be prepared in that case as well.
“If the kid does have the risk of a genetic problem with high cholesterol, we can tell that mom, “You have stepped forward and brought your child to us for help. We can actually do things to assure that your child doesn’t have the same outcome as his dad did,” Dr. Wilson said.
The child will require medication and a regiment of healthy eating and exercise.
The misconception in these types of cases is that the family is overweight or hasn’t taken care of themselves, but in a case like the one outlined here, the treatment is more about genetics.
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a result of genetics where the cholesterol is abnormally high. FH occurs in 1 in 250 individuals, including children.
Cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes is the leading cause of death in adults. The goal of Dr. Wilson and his team is to identify as many children as possible early enough that they can eliminate cardiovascular disease in future generations.
But to reach that goal, pediatricians have to be educated to test children for possible genetic risks of cardiovascular disease. Nationally, the average is 3 percent. Cook Children’s is way ahead of the national average at 18 percent, but Dr. Wilson says there need to be standard, national guidelines to make testing 100 percent.
“When you look at the number of people in this country who have heart attacks and strokes in this country and then realize if we could get pediatricians to embrace and effectively implement these strategies, that would almost be in the same order and magnitude of immunizations.”
The Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation Family Forum
When and Where?
The Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation Family Forum will take place at Cook Children’s from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.
Who Should Attend?
Adults and children with high levels of cholesterol and their families. Parents and Grandparents are especially welcomed.
How To RSVP by Dec. 3?
Join us to connect with others in your area who have FH, hear from FH experts, learn about what the FH Foundation is doing to advocate for the FH Community and how you can help. RSVP by Dec. 3. Click to register and to find out more information.