Doctors warn of disease that can affect 1 in 250 people, cause h - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Doctors warn of disease that can affect 1 in 250 people, cause heart attacks in teens

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Teenagers are having heart attacks, and it's because of a disease about as common as diabetes. 

But this disease is far-less talked about and far-less diagnosed, even though it affects one in every 250 people. 

You would never guess that Allison Jamison, a Louisville mom of two, has already had two heart bypass surgeries and suffered a heart attack. 

"When I was 35, I was actually at the cardiologist's office doing a stress test to check my heart and had a heart attack," Jamison said.

The active and otherwise physically fit woman has a genetic disorder called Familial Hypercholesterolemia, or FH. 

It causes extremely elevated levels of cholesterol, which begins to build up in arteries, causing a variety of heart problems. 

Allison was diagnosed at the age of 5, and doctors with the national FH Foundation say it has nothing to do with diet or exercise. 

"It's a very devastating disease," said Dr. Seth Baum with the FH Foundation. "People can have heart attacks ... I've had patients who've had heart attacks in their teens."

Doctors want you to know that FH is common. An estimated one in every 250 people have it. However, more than 90 percent of people with the disease go undiagnosed.

That's an important detail, because the disease is passed down from generation to generation. 

"People don't understand this is an entirely different animal, and one that can affect children, young people in the prime of their lives," Dr. Baum said.

The condition is treatable. People who have the disorder who aren't treated early have a 20 times higher risk of developing heart disease, the number one killer around the world. 

"I'm sure we've all talked to people who have said, 'Men in my family die of heart attacks early, and that's just the way it is,' without realizing its a genetic condition possibly," Jamison said.

Doctors say the key for families is early diagnosis. 

For more information on FH, click here.

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