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High Cholesterol Message Board

High Cholesterol Board Index

Re: Lipoprotein(a)
Oct 23, 2003
Here is another interesting article on Lp[a]. My Lp[a] was low at last test but I wish I had history before I started Niaspan 6 years ago. From my family backgroundI believe my Lp[a] was probably high contributing to my heart attack at 58. I consider myself very lucky that my cardiologist put me on Niaspan instead of a statin.


Heart disease and heredity

"Eat right, exercise, don’t drink too much, never, ever smoke, and you will live a long and healthy life."

Knowing that his family has a history of heart disease, Doctor Donald Meyer followed his own advice every day of his life. In addition, in his early 40’s he began to have regular stress tests done, a simple walking treadmill test to measure his heart’s reaction to activity. All of his stress tests were normal, and he had always had a reasonably low cholesterol level of around 170. The glowing health of this vital, superbly fit man was evident at a glance; none of his patients had to wonder if he truly practiced what he preached.

This year’s stress test went well, too. It wasn’t until the second phase of his testing, a heart scan, that the trouble showed up. On to a more definitive heart cathaterization…. Doctor Meyer’s heart had some serious blockages in it, way too serious to ignore. Approximately 5 days later, the doctor became the patient, stretched out under the sharp blade of a Cardiac Surgeon.

A suitable vein was harvested from his leg, between ankle and thigh, and segments of that vein were used to “bypass” the blockages that were impeding the blood flow to his heart. Donald Meyer didn’t have the usual single or double bypass; he had a quintuple (5) bypass. One blockage was so severe, that in his, and his Cardiologist’s opinion, he would have had a heart attack within a year.

Now that the immediate danger has passed, is he still scared? “YEAH!!! He replied, “But, I’ve also gained a lot of knowledge about why this happened.”

When you live an ultra-healthy lifestyle, as did your father and grandfather, and all of you have had either a heart attack, or in Donald Meyer’s case, evidence of heart disease before age 65, there must be genetic factors at play. A scientist at heart, Meyer has been spending a lot of time researching genetics and heart disease. In his case, it is his factor of lipoprotein(a) that is elevated to above normal levels. To keep it simple, a high level of lipoprotein(a) is the Meyer family’s genetic marker for heart disease. He, his father and his grandfather all have it, his brother does not. His children, soon to be tested, have a 50% chance of inheriting this dominant gene.

Although prevention is no longer an option for Donald Meyer, who has not been ‘cured’ only ‘treated’ for his heart disease, beginning the correct medication now will slow the progression. His children and grandchildren who inherit the Lipoprotein(a) factor may be able to avoid heart disease by simply taking the prescription form of Niacin, called Niaspan, for life. Simple genetic testing will reveal which of his offspring will need to take it to reduce their chances of heart disease in the future.

What can the average person without a medical background do to prevent their own bypass surgery at age 51? “This is the message we need to get across”, said Meyer, “We’re all empowered to figure things out for ourselves.” In his case, he went to Libraries and on the Internet to research the genetic link to his heart disease.

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He goes on to explain, “If you have an immediate family member (father, mother, sister, brother) who has had a heart attack before ages 60-65, for no apparent reason (meaning they live a healthy lifestyle and watch their cholesterol) then you should definitely look into genetic causes for your family’s history of heart disease.”

“Most doctors are used to looking only at definable factors for heart disease, such as weight, drinking/smoking, cholesterol. Genetic causes for heart disease are now considered to be distinct factors. If you ask your doctor to check you for genetic factors, and he says ‘huh?’, ask him or her to have you tested for:


-Homocysteine level

-Apolipoprotein(a, b, and e)


Physically, Meyer’s recovery from bypass surgery is coming along very well. The most pain has been in his leg where the vein was taken, in addition to general fatigue, and transient depression. “The depression is really a non-issue now,” said Meyer, “but it is to be expected after almost any major surgery or trauma to the body.” Another feeling that Meyer is well entitled to is anger. After doing everything possible to prevent it, heart disease still ‘got him’ and he laughingly admits, oh, yes, he was, and still is a little angry about that!


Title: Heart disease and heredity
Description: Heart disease or heart attacks before age 65 indicate a hereditary genetic factor(s). What tests to ask your doctor for based on your family history.

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