Can anyone help please, I'm scared and confused?

Hi, have come across this site as I am trawling through the internet to try to get answers to all the questions that are spinning through my mind. My husband, aged 45, died suddenly in October 2011, he had come home from work as usual, gone outside in his garage and I found him half an hour later. After nearly four months we have finally got a death certificate which states ischemic heart disease and coronary artery sclorosis. I am petrified that my three children (all boys) will also be at risk from this. My husband was a non-smoker, maybe a little overweight but in no way obese, and physically fit (having recently had medicals to join the coastguards), with no family history of heart disease. He did have a slightly increased level of cholesterol but was not advised to take any drugs. He did have a heart scare in the July of 2011 but was taken to hospital and had all the usual tests and was sent home with no real explanations. I have spoken to our GP about any tests the boys can have, but they seem to offer me no answers - only that the boys can be cholesterol tested - I am still in shock, terrified and don't know where to start to help the boys. Has anyone else got any experience of the same? Thanks.

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  • Hi and sorry for your loss.

    It's important to remember that cholesterol is only one of the risk factors associated wit heart disease. Heart disease is more prevalent as one gets older and 45 is obviously way too young.

    There is a genetic condition called familiar hypercholesterlaemia where a defective combination of genes results in very high levels of cholesterol in the blood and it has been noticed that people with this condition have a greater risk of heart disease at a younger age. As it is genetic, it usually exists in families where there is a history of heart disease at a young age.

    If your husband didn't have total cholesterol levels around 9 (or higher) - it's unlikely he had this condition (average in the UK is around 6.5). If you are still worried - a simple cholesterol test on your children will determine their cholesterol level and your GP can then advise whether further genetic testing may be advisable.

    Again, there are many possible risk factors that contribute to heart disease, from stress to smoking so it's wise to investigate cholesterol but not to focus too much on it as the sole cause of future heart problems in your children.

  • Thank you, I will check with the GP what level my husbands cholesterol was and look into the condition you talk about. Thanks

  • Dear Cornishjo,

    You must still be in shock after the death of your husband. I do agree with Architect not to focus too much on the cholesterol levels. FH results in extremely high levels and this could be picked up just by checking the boys, I did this with my daughters and there was no hassle to get it done.

    You mention that it took 4 months to get a death certificate, was there also a coroner's report? We asked for a copy when my father in law died unexpectedly after an operation (although they patronisingly said we wouldn't understand it, my husband told them I was an ex nurse and would! ). Point being, a health professional may be able to talk it through with you and maybe put your mind at rest a bit more.

  • Hi, there was a coroner's report and I have now requested a copy, as I thought originally they would automatically send me one, so hopefully the GP might be able to help me with that. Thank you

  • Thank you for your help, and so glad that you are okay. x

  • Hi CornishJo

    I am so sorry for your loss and I can understand your shock and fears but if your husband’s heart condition is heritable then the risks to your children are probably in the longer term. You don’t say how old your children are but in the short term they will also be shocked and upset by their father’s death and by your distress and they may need help to put this into context. Do you have supportive relatives and friends who will listen to how you and the children feel and help you come to terms with this? Your children should be tested for cholesterol and they may need to concentrate on healthy diet and exercise but they shouldn’t be made to feel that they are about to die too. If you feel that the people around you cannot help then there may be bereavement counselling services available, even organisations such as Relate, who will listen and help you make sense of this and feel calmer about facing the future.

    I was a single parent (through divorce) suffering from depression so I can understand the feelings of being terrified and that all the thoughts are spinning round your mind. It was challenging and scary time for me but having the right people to talk to helped.

    Love and Best Wishes

    Tricia

  • Hi Tricia, Thank you for your reply. I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive family and lots of friends close by. We have also been in touch with a counselling service for the children (16, 13 and 11), if they feel they need this. I am trying not to let them see how scared I am, but obviously at the ages they are they are looking for answers themselves.

    Hope you are okay now and thanks for your support. Jo

  • Yeah, they're a bit older than I was when my father had a heart attack and so we discovered FH in the family. Hopefully they'll be better able to cope than I was, but they may well be coming to terms with their own mortality in a way that I think most people don't until they're quite a bit older. A supportive family is a great help with it, I think.

    Still, get them tested. Heart attacks just seem so random and warningless at first glance, but there are sometimes warning signs, just they can't be seen with the naked eye (well, except maybe the little yellow cholesterol lumps in some cases). At least if they're tested, it either confirms or denies one possible inheritance and if it's there, you can try treating it.

  • Cornishjo. do make sure you get your boys tested fo cholestrol and blood pressure. At least its a start to doing your best for them. Love xxx

  • Thank you, will be doing everything I can to make sure they are okay xx

  • Thank you Traci for all the information. We are in touch with Penhaligons friends in this area, but I have made a note of the others you've suggested in case the boys feel they would like to get in touch. Thanks again, it is very kind of you. Jo

  • Thank you Linda, I am waiting to see my GP to discuss the way forward when the coroners report has finally been sent out. I will then get in touch with your helpline. Thanks so much for the information and support, everyone's comments have helped to ease the worry a little. x

  • So sorry for you and your boys. My brother died 3 weeks ago at 67. We all thought he was fit as he cycled every day and ate healthily. Our father died suddenly at 46 so I suppose it is a family thing. We have the funeral this week and afterwards my son 42 and daughter 45 are going to see if they can be tested for heart problems. I think I will see my GP (I'm 71) as well. Also my nephew and niece 31 and 34 ought to be checked.

    It seems our GPs might think we are worrying unduly but if he won't get us tested we will pay for it as I think it is essential. These days blocked arteries and high cholesterol can be treated and it must be worthwhile.

    I wish you luck and am thinking of you and your boys - your husband died far too young. God Bless you all.

  • Please stay in touch with us, Cornishjo, and let us know how things progress. My very best wishes to you and your boys.

    Gobsmacked, most GPs are delighted to do cholesterol testing (they do get paid for it as well, I think it's called reaching targets! ). However, there does seem to be this confusion when it comes to inherited forms of high cholesterol and there are other types other than FH. Best wishes to you and your family this week.

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