Participants in the Healthy Nevada Project are beginning to get results from their genetic testing. One such result: if they have a high FH risk. Dr. Christopher Rowan explains what this means to patients.
Familial hypercholesterolemia — or FH — affects about 1 in 250 people, but more than 90 percent of cases go undiagnosed. That’s one reason the Healthy Nevada Project, a population health study led by Renown and DRI, is now notifying patients of their risk for FH and other conditions.
Dr. Christopher Rowan, cardiologist with Renown Institute for Heart & Vascular Health and co-investigator of the Healthy Nevada Project, recently talked with KRNV’s Shelby Sheehan about what this means and why it matters.
What is familial hypercholesterolemia — also known as FH?
Familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, is a lipid disorder that creates a cholesterol level in your body that is two- to three-fold higher, which puts you at much greater risk for heart disease. Men with FH have a 50 percent chance of heart attack by the age of 50, and for women, it’s 30 percent by age 60.
Are there any symptoms of high cholesterol?
Unfortunately with high cholesterol, usually the first symptom is something like a stroke or first heart attack. By getting a simple blood test and also knowing your cholesterol numbers, you can talk with your doctor about changing your diet and lifestyle.
What about patients with a high FH risk?
Many patients with FH are in very good shape and good health. With the Healthy Nevada Project, those I’ve talked with have known they have a cholesterol problem for a long time and have never been able to get their numbers down. Now I’m able to tell them why.
How is the study notifying participants of a high FH risk?
The Healthy Nevada Project is reaching out to study participants who carry the gene and consented to be notified of their risk.
We’re getting a report back from our genetic partner, Helix, and then I call the participants directly. I let them know we should talk and have a discussion about the condition. Additionally, because it’s genetic, I let them know they need to talk to all family members, because with each family member, there’s a 50-50 chance they carry it as well.
How can someone join the Healthy Nevada Project?
Go to our website, HealthyNV.org, and sign up for the testing. They can also come directly to our testing center at 780 Kuenzli.