Women Living with Familial Hypercholesterolemia: Challenges and Considerations Surrounding Their Care

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2020 Aug 20;22(10):60. doi: 10.1007/s11883-020-00881-5.


Purpose of review: To highlight the gender-based differences in presentation and disparities in care for women with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).

Recent findings: Women with FH experience specific barriers to care including underrepresentation in research, significant underappreciation of risk, and interrupted therapy during childbearing. National and international registry and clinical trial data show significant healthcare disparities for women with FH. Women with FH are less likely to be on guideline-recommended high-intensity statin medications and those placed on statins are more likely to discontinue them within their first year. Women with FH are also less likely to be on regimens including non-statin agents such as PCSK9 inhibitors. As a result, women with FH are less likely to achieve target low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) targets, even those with prior atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). FH is common, under-diagnosed, and under-treated. Disparities of care are more pronounced in women than men. Additionally, FH weighs differently on women throughout the course of their lives starting from choosing contraceptives as young girls along with lipid-lowering therapy, timing pregnancy, choosing breastfeeding or resumption of therapy, and finally deciding goals of care during menopause. Early identification and appropriate treatment prior to interruptions of therapy for childbearing can lead to marked reduction in morbidity and mortality. Women access care differently than men and increasing awareness among all providers, especially cardio-obstetricians, may improve diagnostic rates. Understanding the unique challenges women with FH face is crucial to close the gaps in care they experience.

Keywords: Familial hypercholesterolemia; Girls; LDL; Statins; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / blood
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / complications
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / diagnosis*
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • PCSK9 Inhibitors
  • Registries
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • PCSK9 Inhibitors
  • Serine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • PCSK9 protein, human