Health Advice



Do you have an inherited risk for cholesterol woes?

By Michael Roizen, M.D. on

In large airports, the Transportation Security Administration seizes around 2,000 pounds of prohibited items every month. That's a screening system we're all glad is in place. Here's another one: genetic screening. When it's used in combo with clinical criteria, such as your LDL cholesterol level (or, even better, your apolipoprotein B level) and/or that a family member had a heart attack at a young age, it can alert you to an inherited trait that causes extremely elevated levels of lousy LDL cholesterol, called familial hypercholesterolemia.

A recent study reveals that if health screenings were combined with genetic testing, more than 1 million Americans with an increased inherited risk could be ID'd.

It appears that one of every 1,000 U.S. adults has one gene for familial hypercholesterolemia. Those folks are, on average, at risk for a heart attack at age 50 (men) and age 60 (women). That compares to age 66 for men and age 72 for women without the predisposing gene. If you happen to have two genes for the disorder? Cholesterol and cardiovascular problems start earlier -- and so does heart disease.

Unfortunately, there's no national screening program to identify who's at risk. So it's up to you. If you're 16 or older, get a test for your level of apolipoprotein B and cholesterol. Find out if anyone related to you has had a heart attack before age 60. If that's the case and you have elevated apolipoprotein B and/or LDL, talk to your doctor about lifestyle and medication steps to save your life.



Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



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