Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Early detection, lifelong medications and a nutritious diet can help save patients' hearts


Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a hereditary ailment that can lead to heart disease, is no longer an unlivable condition or a death sentence in this day and age.

FH is a silent killer infiltrating our arteries, early detection and treatments will prevent the formation of heart disease, particularly coronary atherosclerosis, or a blocked artery caused by bad cholesterol accumulation. This can result in a heart attack.

Halt FH right on its tracks. Test yourself and your entire family. After being diagnosed with FH, there is still hope.

During the August 30, 2023, online Usapang Puso sa Puso forum, three health experts - Philippine Heart Association (PHA) Director Dr. Lourdes Ella Santos, a cardiologist-lipidologist; Dr. Maria Concepcion Sison, a pediatric cardiologist; and Dr. Susan Sioksoan Cua, a pediatric endocrinologist - co-managed FH patients.

The US Family Heart Foundation observes September 24 as Familial Hypercholesterolemia Day, an event that the PHA and the Philippine Lipid & Atherosclerosis Society have adopted as an Advocacy to raise awareness about FH care in order to prevent complications.

Santos said that “we at the PHA and our colleagues from different disciplines are raising awareness on FH. One in every 300 Filipinos in the Philippines is suffering from FH.”

FH is hereditary, screening for the disease should ideally begin in childhood and include a review of any family history of CVD, as well as a lipid or complete cholesterol screening to check cholesterol levels in the blood; LDL levels above 160 mg/dL in children, and above 190 mg/dL in adults, are signs of FH.

“Children from a brood with FH tendencies should get tested for FH as early 2years of age. Taking the lifestyle of most Filipino families into consideration, even without family history, people get screened as young 9-11 years old,” according to Sison.

The human body has good and bad cholesterol. “Actually, we need good cholesterol for hormones to absorb nutrients,” Cua stressed, adding that doctors who co-manage HF patients/families, prescribe and emphasize that the anti- cholesterol drug called statin which is a lifetime or maintenance medicine, should shift to lifestyle therapy.”

Sison extolled the priceless value of the PHA Lifestyle code 52100 (5 servings of vegetables/fruits daily; no more than 2 grams of added sodium daily; 1 hour of physical activity daily; 0 sugared beverage and 0 smoking), quipping, "bawal matigas ang ulo (don't be stubborn.)

Cua shared and elaborated on her own 'LOVE' prescription, saying, "L-imit food quantity to the appropriate amount, O-mit unhealthy foods and practices, V-egetables should make up the majority of your food consumption." E-exercise for two hours per day, staggered, should be a part of your regular routine."

While a healthy lifestyle consisting of proper diet and exercise certainly helps manage the condition, it is often not enough to keep the bad cholesterol or low- density lipoprotein (LDL) levels at a safe level.

Physical signs of FH, according to the experts, include an excess buildup of cholesterol in some parts of the body, such as the knees, elbows, or around the eyes, known as xanthoma.

To summarize the doctors' message to FH patients, the keys to adding life to living are early identification, maintenance treatment, and commitment to a healthy regimen that should be a family and communal enterprise.

UPP featured two patients, whose FH experiences will inspire and empower patients with the same case. Jade Gonzales, 26, an FH patient diagnosed after noticing these xanthomas on herself at the age of 22. A pharmacist by profession, Gonzales is a successful Medication Support Liaison for Axios International.

Meanwhile, radiologist Dr. Emilio Baltazar Jr., 79, was diagnosed with FH during his septuagenarian years. He had bypass surgery five years ago after suffering a heart attack.

Both eagerly promised to share their FH history and ongoing therapy in order to save more lives. High LDL cholesterol, sometimes known as bad cholesterol, is one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

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