Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America with about 659,000 people in the United States dying from heart disease each year, equivalent to 1 in 4 deaths.
As Good Day BIO has reported, “Heart disease costs our healthcare system $216 billion dollars annually, and results in $147 billion worth of lost productivity each year.”
When it comes to heart health, every avenue needs to be considered. This is why the Family Heart Foundation recently expanded its mission to highlight the importance of understanding Lipoprotein(a) and Familial Hypercholesterolemia.
What is Lipoprotein(a)?
Much of the heart disease conversation focuses on environmental factors, such as diet or lack of exercise. However, understanding a patient’s genetic factors are just important to maintaining good heart health.
This is why the Family Heart Foundation recently expanded its mission to highlight the importance of understanding Lipoprotein(a) and Familial Hypercholesterolemia – creating Lipoprotein(a) Awareness Day on March 24.
“Lipoprotein(a) – sometimes referred to as lipoprotein ‘little a’ – is an important genetic risk for heart disease and stroke,” explains the Family Heart Foundation.
For a long time, Lipoprotein(a) was little understood. That is changing.
Turns out, “1 in 5 people have high levels of Lp(a); greater than 50 mg/dL) putting them at higher risk. This elevation begins at birth – it’s associated with genetic factors inherited from your parents – and is not linked to behavior.” In fact, high levels of Lp(a) can be found in healthy and active individuals.
How a running injury saved one patient’s life
After a running injury, Chad M.’s doctor became concerned with calcified deposits in the arteries of his legs.
“She told me that there was no way someone my age should have this and that I needed to see my cardiologist sooner rather than later,” he says.
Two years later, Chad began to experience extreme fatigue and noticed his ankles were always swollen at the end of the day. By June, he quit running altogether. By November, he had a very sharp pain radiate through his chest to his back followed by dizziness.
“Fearing a heart attack, I rushed to the emergency room. They did an EKG and called my cardiologist. She assured the doctor on duty that it was most likely anxiety and they sent me home without further testing,” says Chad.
After seeking help and being turned away, deprioritized, and not taken seriously time and again, Chad finally found “a doctor at University of California, San Diego, who is considered the world-leader in Lp(a) research.” This doctor found massive proximal LAD blockage on the left side of his heart – a “widow maker,” as they were called – that could have cost Chad his life.
“My message to others is to get tested for Lp(a) so you know if yours is high and listen to your own body. Learn all you can, advocate for yourself, and find a doctor who will listen,” says Chad. “It could save your life.”
The Family Heart Foundation is offering a number of resources for Lipoprotein(a) Awareness Day – learn more.