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Childrens clinic prevents future heart disease

Children at risk of developing heart disease in the future due to high cholesterol can now attend a ground-breaking clinic run by the familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) service at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

FH is an inherited condition which can lead to extremely high cholesterol levels and is passed down through families in the genes.

The FH service, led by Dr Chandrajay, Consultant in Chemical Pathology and Metabolic Medicine, and Claire Tuson, Familial Hypercholesterolaemia Specialist Nurse, has recently extended their service to include children and adolescents.

Claire explained: “Research has shown that children with FH start to develop a build-up of fatty plaque in their arteries before the age of 10. Once diagnosed, FH is easy to treat so it makes sense to work with families as soon as possible.

“Last year, with the support of Consultant Paediatrician Dr Dominic Smith, we extended gene testing to all children aged 10 years old and over, who have a parent affected with FH. Testing children for FH could prevent a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.

“The first six children from York and Scarborough that were identified with FH have recently attended our new Yorkshire and Humber joint paediatric clinic for children and their families, which launched at the end of January.”

FH is estimated to affect 1 in 250 people in the UK, including over 56,000 children. It is an inherited disorder of cholesterol and lipid metabolism, caused by an alteration in a single gene where people have higher levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol levels from birth. If left undetected and untreated FH can lead to the early development of heart and circulatory problems.

Kiera Pickering, aged 12 and her brother Connor, aged 11, from Scarborough were two of the first children to attend the clinic.

Claire added: “It’s a real breakthrough to be able to identify and treat children with FH so early. Alongside dietary and lifestyle advice to maintain a healthy body weight, children can be considered for statin therapy from as young as 10 years old. Statin treatment can not only prevent, but potentially reverse the build-up of cholesterol and allow children and young people to live a perfectly healthy life.”

Despite the availability of genetic testing, more than 85 percent of people with FH in the UK are undiagnosed. The British Heart Foundation estimates that currently only around 600 children in the UK have been diagnosed with FH, meaning that thousands more are not on treatment and remain unaware of their future risk of heart disease.

For more information about the FH clinics contact claire.tuson@york.nhs.uk

13 March 2020

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