Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 11:40 UK

Heart attack risk test rolled-out

Cholesterol
High cholesterol can cause heart attacks if not managed

A screening programme will be rolled out across Wales to identify people at risk of early heart attacks due to high cholesterol.

Around 5,000 people in Wales are estimated to have Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which can lead to heart attacks in young people.

The assembly government and the British Heat Foundation have brought in a testing programme for people at risk.

It is hoped it will improve the quality of life for people with FH.

The screening programme will be rolled out across Wales later this year, funded by the assembly government in what it claims is a first for the UK.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said the tests would also help to reassure the families of people with the condition.

With the right lifestyle and medication, people with FH should be able to live as long as those without the condition
Edwina Hart, Health Minister

"It is important that we are able to identify people early to give them the help and support to enable them to live life to the full," she said.

"With the right lifestyle and medication, people with FH should be able to live as long as those without the condition."

The assembly government's lead cardiac adviser, Dr Phil Thomas, has been working with cardiac specialists to develop a model for implementing testing for FH in Wales.

The model proposes a family cascade system, which means doctors who test someone with high cholesterol or heart disease and discover they have FH can then test other members of their family, both young and old.

Dr Thomas said: "The family cascade system will use DNA genotyping combined with cholesterol testing, linked to the clinical genetic service."

Once individuals with FH are identified, modern drug therapy and lifestyle advice are very useful in preventing coronary heart disease and restoring life expectancy to normal.

The new screening programme is based on a pilot project that has been running in south Wales since 2005.

The project has identified individuals from around 250 families with FH and Dr Thomas said it had proved to be effective in identifying people with the condition sooner and will have helped to save lives."



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