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Heart health experts raise awareness on Familial Hypercholesterolemia

September 24 is observed as Familial Hypercholesterolemia Day by the US Family Heart Foundation, an event that the Philippine Heart Association and the Philippine Lipid & Atherosclerosis Society have embraced as an Advocacy to heighten awareness about management of FH to thwart is complications. PHA Director Dr. Lourdes Ella Santos, said: “We at the PHA and our colleagues from different disciplines are raising awareness on FH," during the August 30, 2023 online forum Usapang Puso sa Puso (UPP).
One in every 300 Filipinos in the Philippines is suffering from FH, a genetic disorder that can lead to heart disease. In layman's terms, heart doctors said: Namamana ang cholesterol!
Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder that can lead to heart disease. The physical manifestations of FH, especially among young individuals, include excess build-up of cholesterol in some areas of the body such as the knees, elbows or around the eyes, which is called xanthoma.
Dr. Santos, a cardiologist-lipidologist; together with Dr. Maria Concepcion Sison, a pediatric cardiologist, and Dr. Susan Sioksoan Cua, a pediatric endocrinologist – who co-managed FH patients, thoroughly discussed FH and how to manage the disease According to them, FH is a silent killer creeping into our arteries, thus early diagnosis and intervention will curb the early onset of heart disease, particularly coronary atherosclerosis or a blocked artery due to bad cholesterol accumulation. This can lead to a heart attack.
Since FH is hereditary in nature, screening for the disease should ideally be conducted even among children and involves reviewing any family history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as a lipid or complete cholesterol screening to check cholesterol levels in the blood; for children, LDL levels above 160 mg/dL, while for adults, above 190 mg/dL, are signs of FH.
“Children from a brood with FH tendencies should get tested for FH as early 2 years of age. Taking the lifestyle of most Filipino families into consideration, even without family history, people get screened as young 9-11 years old,” according to Sison. The human body has good and bad cholesterol. “Actually, we need good cholesterol for hormones to absorb nutrients,” Cua stressed, adding that doctors who co-manage HF patients/families, prescribe and emphasize that the anti-cholesterol drug called statin which is a lifetime or maintenance medicine, should shift to lifestyle therapy.”
Sharing and expounding on her own ‘LOVE’ prescription, Cua said: “L- imit food quantity to the right amount, O-mit unhealthy foods and practices, V-egetables should make up most of your food consumption. E-xercise lasting for two hours a day, which can be staggered, should be a must in your daily routine.” While a healthy lifestyle consisting of proper diet and exercise certainly helps manage the condition, it is often not enough to keep the bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels at a safe level. To nip FH in the bud, get yourself and the entire family tested. There’s life after being diagnosed with FH. This is proven by featured two patients, whose FH experiences will inspire and empower patients with the same case.
Jade Gonzales, 26, an FH patient diagnosed after noticing these xanthomas on herself at the age of 22. A pharmacist by profession, Gonzales is a successful Medication Support Liaison for Axios International.
Meanwhile, Dr. Emilio Baltazar Jr., 79, a radiologist, was diagnosed to be positive for FH during his septuagenarian years. Five years ago, he underwent bypass surgery after suffering from a heart attack. Both enthusiastically offered to share their FH history and continuing therapy to be able to save more lives. High LDL or bad cholesterol is one of the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases.
Early detection, maintenance medicine, and adherence to a healthy regimen which should be a family and community business are the keys to living a good life and FH management. ###
The PHA Lifestyle code -- 52100 (5 servings of vegetables/fruits daily; not more than 2 grams of added sodium daily; 1 hour of physical activity daily; 0 sugared beverage and 0 smoking).


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