40 Year Old Woman’s Heart Attack Attributed to Familial Hypercholesterolemia

A recent story featured on Good Morning America and ABC News relates the story of Blair Wenter, a 44-year-old mother diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia — a genetic cholesterol disorder that starts at birth, an issue that was amplified by the fact that genetic testing revealed Blair’s son Christian also had the condition. Blair – at the time a 40-year-old ranch photographer from Frisco, Texas, thought she was too healthy and active to have a heart attack.

Wenter, a lively speaker at last year’s Boca Raton Regional Hospital (BRRH) sponsored ASPC meeting stated, “When you see a 128-pound, 5-foot 4-inch woman in stilettos, doctors think it’s a hormone issue”. “I was riding horses, chasing children, swimming — I live a very active life. I ran a 10K the week of my heart attack.” Sadly Wenter’s story is not unique.

As is the case with many people stricken with FH, Blair was unaware she had the condition. Familial Hypercholesterolemia, is a genetic cholesterol disorder that leads to premature vascular disease. In the most severe circumstances, very young children can experience life-threatening heart attacks and strokes. Typically however, the disease does not wreak havoc until people reach their 40s and 50s. FH is not as rare as you might imagine. It occurs in one out of every 500 people, but in some populations – like French Canadians and South African Ashkenazi Jews – the number can be as high as one in 67! To make matters worse, the disorder often goes undetected.

In an attempt to thwart the dire consequences of FH, organizations like the FH Foundation, the National Lipid Association and the American Society for Preventive Cardiology are working hard to raise awareness. This Tuesday February 26th at BRRH I will be giving Grand Rounds on FH. Because of her dedication to the FH cause, Katherine Wilemon, the founder and president of the FH Foundation (and an FH patient herself) will be flying in from California to join me. These organizations – and I personally – encourage you to speak to your doctor to see whether you harbor this silent threat. If you do, don’t be afraid; treatment is available for you and your family.

Remember, as a genetic disease FH can impact all members of your immediate and even extended family. Consequently all relatives of a single FH patient should be screened with simple cholesterol tests. Please don’t procrastinate. See your doctor soon to be sure you do not have FH.. These organizations – and I personally – encourage you to speak to your doctor to see whether you harbor this silent threat. If you do, don’t be afraid; treatment is available for you and your family. Remember, as a genetic disease FH can impact all members of your immediate and even extended family. Consequently all relatives of a single FH patient should be screened with simple cholesterol tests. Please don’t procrastinate. See your doctor soon to be sure you do not have FH.

For more information on FH treatment alternatives, including LDL-Apheresis, visit Preventive Cardiology Inc.

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