Epidemiology of familial hypercholesterolaemia: Community and clinical

Atherosclerosis. 2018 Oct:277:289-297. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2018.06.855.


Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a genetic disorder affecting the metabolism of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles, leading to high LDL-cholesterol levels maintained over time and higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) early in life. Contemporary studies have challenged prior estimations of FH prevalence and suggest this condition to be more frequent than previously considered, with an overall prevalence rate of 1:200-300 individuals in the general population (1:160,000-300,000 for homozygous FH). However, prevalence of FH varies around the world. In part this is due to an artefact of approaches of detection and methods used to diagnose FH (e.g. lack of gold standard for diagnosis of FH, different criteria applied, availability of genetic testing). But also due to intrinsic characteristic of different populations, e.g. higher presence of founder effects or rates of consanguinity. Additionally, results from many regions are lacking and it is estimated that only a small percentage of subjects with FH would have been diagnosed overall. FH entails a significantly higher risk of CVD, reported to be higher than that estimated by conventional risk assessment tools for the general population. This risk is mainly driven by coronary heart disease. Despite this evidence, low rates of patients meet therapeutic targets for cardiovascular prevention, and implementation of therapy (high intensity statins, combination therapy) is needed. The introduction of novel lipid-lowering therapies may improve this situation. In the present review, we discuss the epidemiology of FH overall, with special attention to different aspects related to prevalence, cardiovascular risk and prognosis, and treatment of FH.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Familial hypercholesterolaemia; LDL cholesterol; Primary dyslipidemia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Global Health*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / blood
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / epidemiology*
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / genetics
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / therapy
  • Phenotype
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, LDL