Are Your Family’s Cholesterol Numbers Normal?

- Reviewed by Prof. Park, Taek Kyu from Cardiology Department

Did you know, contrary to the common belief that the condition is mainly associated with the high-fat diet and the inactive lifestyle of these days, that hyperlipidemia can partly be caused by your genetics? You might be one of these cases if you have a high cholesterol level even though you’re not obese, don’t smoke or drink, and eat a lot more vegetables than meat.
A recent study by Prof. Won, Hong Hee from Department of Digital Health, Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences & Technology, Sungkyunkwan University, showed people with genetic variations leading to familial hyperlipidemia are a whopping 22 times more likely to have coronary artery diseases than those without. If you have any of LDLR, APOB, and PCSK9, which are the genes known to cause familial hyperlipidemia, you’re more likely to have a build-up of LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol. The implication of these findings is that people with those genes have a bigger risk of cardiovascular diseases than others; they should be very strictly careful about these conditions.

Click to see the cited paper on Pubmed


An example family history of genetic hyperlipidemia

Find out your cholesterol level with a blood test

You can find out the cholesterol level of you and your family with regular check-ups, since The cholesterol test is a basic item included in them. The cholesterol level is measured through a blood test and the result includes total cholesterol, triglyceride, HDL, and LDL numbers. One can be diagnosed with hyperlipidemia if the total cholesterol level is higher than 240mg/dl, the triglyceride is higher than 200mg/dl, or the LDL is higher than 160mg/dl. Commonly, the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is called the “bad cholesterol” that clogs the blood vessels and causes arteriosclerosis while the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is called the “good cholesterol” that gets rid of the bad one.


Normal range of cholesterol level

At the moment, more than half of the Korean people aged over 30 have dyslipidemia, meaning the cholesterol, triglyceride, or LDL level in their blood is higher than normal or the HDL number is lower than normal. In such cases, the hospital or medical check-up center would tell the patients that their blood fat level is too high, increasing the risk of heart diseases, arteriosclerosis, and stroke and advise them to control their bodyweight, maintain a healthy diet, and do some aerobic exercises regularly.

Hyperlipidemia caused by genetics should be managed more intensely

About 30 percent of the cholesterol in our body comes from food we eat; 70 percent is created by the liver. When we intake a large amount of carbohydrate or sugar, the liver stores the excess nutrition by converting it to fat; cholesterol is produced during this process. Therefore, while it goes without saying that you should limit your animal fat intake (including butter) to less than 10 percent of your total calorie consumption, you should also avoid consuming too much carbohydrate as well as fruits. Instead, you’re advised to have a lot of vegetables and seaweeds. Maintaining a healthy weight is also crucial; if you’re overweight, you’d better try to gradually lose some weight. Finally, in order to burn the fat accumulated in your body and increase your muscle volume, do some aerobic exercises three to four times a week, for thirty minutes to one hour per session.


How to manage your cholesterol level

If you have many family members with high cholesterol numbers, you also have the possibility of developing hyperlipidemia; you need to regularly monitor your cholesterol level. Also, always try to keep a healthy lifestyle and take medicines following your doctor’s prescription when needed. Cholesterol-lowering medicines used by necessity can help prevent heart diseases, stroke, and circulatory disturbance.

It is also a good idea to share information and healthy tips about hyperlipidemia with your children as well as other family and relatives. Let them know that they should have regular check-ups and understand how to prevent the condition.