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A cholesterol condition that's common yet poorly diagnosed
Five years ago, Kelly Brady was an active 35-year-old. She ran half marathons and played recreational sports and varsity field hockey at university where, while studying biology, her minors included kinesiology and nutrition.
If ever there was an ambassador for good health, she was it.
Her only hint of a health problem at that time was the occasional chest pain on heavy exertion.
Brady, now a high school biology teacher, decided to undergo tests. They revealed her heart was fine.
But a year later while undergoing blood tests for another matter, doctors noticed her cholesterol levels were far too high – particularly for an active young woman. And she was still experiencing some chest pain.
More diagnostics followed.
Tests showed severely blocked coronary arteries
This time, a cardiac CT scan in March 2018 revealed her coronary arteries were 90 per cent blocked. This surprised her doctors, who ordered an angiogram to give a better picture. The test again showed how severely blocked her arteries were and they decided on surgery.
Shortly after, in June 2018, Brady underwent a quadruple bypass and is now on cholesterol-lowering statin medications for life.
What was causing all of this in a young, otherwise healthy person?
It turns out that Brady had a genetic high cholesterol condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH.
Dr. Liam Brunham, who is with St. Paul’s Hospital’s Health Heart Program Prevention Clinic, says it’s the most common genetic disease in the world, affecting one in every 250 people. Yet it’s about 90-per-cent under-diagnosed.