New test to prevent heart attacks striking

DIAGNOSIS: Sarah Huddlestone one of first to have new test for familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH).
DIAGNOSIS: Sarah Huddlestone one of first to have new test for familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH).
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A vital screening programme to help prevent heart attacks in those identified with a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol is being run at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

The Trust is one of four in the region to launch the programme, which could help to identify around 85 percent of people undiagnosed with the potentially fatal Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH).

A ground breaking partnership between NHS England and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) could prevent hundreds of heart attacks across Yorkshire each year by identifying people with genetically high cholesterol.

Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a genetic condition that causes abnormally high cholesterol, which leads to coronary heart disease and can cause a potentially fatal heart attack at a young age. It is estimated that up to 260,000 people are living with it across the UK.

NHS England (North) and the BHF have joined forces to launch a region-wide cascade screening service, which will see all relatives of people diagnosed with FH tested for the faulty gene.

Chief executive at York Teaching Hospital NHS Trust also launching the programme, Patrick Crowley, said: “We are privileged to host this service that will offer significant health benefits to patients and their families affected by this condition. The service will potentially have an important impact on the burden of coronary heart disease and the risk of premature death.”

It now means that if someone living in Yorkshire has unusually high cholesterol and a family history of early onset coronary heart disease their DNA can be tested for faulty genes known to cause FH.

Sarah Huddlestone, who lives in York, is one of the first patients to have the genetic test at York Hospital, through the service.

She said: “I’d just finished my degree at the University of York and being in my late twenties it seemed impossible as a very healthy, fit young woman, that my arteries were almost completely blocked caused by FH. I’m very lucky and grateful that I was diagnosed just in time; I started taking statins and had a double heart bypass. My mum’s cholesterol was then checked, she also has FH and just last year she also had successful heart surgery. This new service will help many other families with FH to be found in time, receive simple treatment and care keeping them safe, active and healthy. It’s amazing.”

The BHF has provided nearly £250,000 to fund four specialist FH nurses who will provide testing in hospitals across the region. If you have a family history of premature heart disease or sudden death in the family you can call 0300 456 8383.

Familial hypercholesterolaemia1

1. (FH) is a genetic condition that causes abnormally high cholesterol, which leads to coronary heart disease and can cause a potentially fatal heart attack at a young age.

2. It’s estimated that up to 260,000 people are living with FH across the UK.

3. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is one of four Trusts across the region that now tests for FH.

4. Around 85 percent of people are undiagnosed with FH.

5. BHF has funded research into FH for more than 30 years.

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