Joe Farrington - Raising awareness can save lives
Joe Farrington is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who is married with four kids, three grandkids and three mutts. His hobbies include running with his wife, Franziska, riding in his favorite car (a Mustang), spending time with grandkids and educating people about familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). He writes in honor of Cholesterol Awareness Month.
Two years have passed since I suffered a heart attack and had six stents placed in my heart. I had ignored a long family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My parents both died of cardiovascular diseases before age 56 and I nearly followed them when I reached 53. Following my heart attack, I found out about genetic testing for early cardiovascular diseases (CVD). I was diagnosed with FH which is short for Familial Hypercholesterolemia. It is an inherited disorder that leads to aggressive and premature cardiovascular disease. This includes problems like heart attacks, strokes and even narrowing of our heart valves. For individuals with FH, although diet and lifestyle are important, they are not the main cause of high LDL. In FH patients, genetic mutations make the liver incapable of metabolizing (or removing) excess LDL (bad cholesterol). My wife and I have made significant lifestyle changes in our exercise routine; we’ve run together in over twenty 5Ks, three 10Ks and two 5-mile races. We’ve eliminated 90% of all processed food from our diet which has been highly effective in lowering my cholesterol in concert with the statin treatment.
Raising awareness of FH is very important to me because 1 in 250 people have no idea they are at risk of an early heart attack or stroke. In the United States alone, an estimated 1.3 million people live with FH. Yet only 10% of them are diagnosed. Can you imagine? Perhaps they won’t know it until they have a heart attack!
I want to save lives by raising awareness of FH. If you have FH, your children have a 50% chance of inheriting it as well. Some of my children have inherited my FH, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Now, they are able to receive aggressive treatment early in life and hopefully avoid heart attack or stroke at a young age. Thanks to the amazing support network within the FH Foundation, the future for the thousands of people we can reach through our FH advocates is bright! If you have a long family history of early heart disease or strokes, please get your cholesterol levels tested and if abnormally high, ask your doctor to refer you to a lipid specialist for genetic testing. You can find out more about FH at the following website: https://thefhfoundation.org/
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