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Heart disease risk for thousands

26th June 2009

Heart disease could be risking the lives of thousands of people due to an undiagnosed genetic condition.

The Royal College of Physicians has said familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) causes high levels of LDL cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease in both men and women in their 50’s and 60’s.

The condition is inherited and shown to have reduced risk if treated early.

A pilot audit of 248 cases discovered while care was good, very few families were being systematically genetically screened, with not enough facilities for diagnosing and treating children with FH.

Professor Steve Humphries, FH audit project director, said: “The problem at the moment is that most NHS Trusts haven’t yet been able to find funding for the DNA testing or the nursing and support staff to carry out the cascade family testing.

“Sorting this out is a key priority.”

An estimated 120,000 people in England have the condition, with 85 per cent of cases currently undiagnosed.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation said: “Funding should be made available as a matter of urgency so we can test the family members of people with FH.

“The longer the health service delays making this vital investment lives will continue to be needlessly cut short.”

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