News | Heart Failure | March 31, 2022

The Silent, Undetected Cause of Early Heart Disease

Katherine Wilemon and Dr. Mary McGowan from the Family Heart Foundation Discuss a Genetic Risk Factor

One in 5 people worldwide have high Lipoprotein(a) – sometimes referred to as “L-P-little a” – an important genetic risk factor for premature heart disease and stroke.

Image credit: Getty Images


March 31, 2022 – One in 5 people worldwide have high Lipoprotein(a) – sometimes referred to as “L-P-little a” – an important genetic risk factor for premature heart disease and stroke. If you have a family history of early heart disease or have been told that heart disease “runs in your family,” but you’ve never been told why, it’s important to know if you have high Lp(a). Recently, founder and CEO Katherine Wilemon and chief medical officer Dr. Mary McGowan from the Family Heart Foundation, participated in a nationwide satellite media tour to discuss this silent, undetected cause of early heart disease.

Genetic disorders driving early cardiovascular disease are very common, but almost never diagnosed. Elevated levels of Lp(a) increase the risk of inflammation, blood clotting and clogging — or plaque buildup — inside your blood vessels, which can block the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart or brain and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Almost everyone gets tested for high cholesterol, but in the U.S. fewer than 1% are screened for Lp(a). It’s important to know that Lp(a) levels are inherited — they’re unrelated to diet, exercise, obesity, and lifestyle. To find out if you’re affected, ask for a simple blood test to check your Lipoprotein(a). An Lp(a) test measures the level of Lipoprotein(a) in your blood. People might be surprised to know that this test is not part of a standard blood test that provides your cholesterol levels, so their doctor will need to order it directly.

In order to create awareness worldwide of Lp(a), the Family Heart Foundation established the first annual Lp(a) Awareness Day on March 24. People can join the movement by following the Family Heart Foundation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and sharing our messages about Lp(a) with friends and family. We aim to make a difference for those who have never heard of this common genetic condition.

The Family Heart Foundation is addressing gaps in care through research, advocacy and awareness. The Family Heart Foundation aims to save generations of families from early heart disease by helping those at risk get the information they need to protect themselves and their family. For more information, visit MoreFamiliesMoreHearts.org 

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