Sandra has long been painfully aware of the awful statistic: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people in the United States. Sandra’s father died of a heart attack when he was just 50 years old. Sandra was 22; it was the biggest tragedy of her life. His first heart event at 30 was followed by by-pass surgery at 40 and a massive, fatal heart attack at 50. But Sandra was determined: this was never going to happen to her. She was doing everything right, she had always worked-out, watched her diet, and had an annual physical because of her family history of cardiovascular disease.
But fate and genetics caught up with her in 2003. One block into her regular 5-mile run, she had a feeling of extreme fatigue and a mild tingling in her chest when she ran; it went away when she slowed down. She rationalized it away thinking she had the flu, early menopause or thyroid issues.
After her run, she felt that something was wrong and went to see her family doctor, who knew her family history of cardiovascular disease. She had a regular stress test and got a clean bill of health: total cholesterol 136; blood pressure excellent. She was fit. She had just run a marathon the year before.
During a subsequent business trip, she had a persistent feeling of fatigue and swollen feet. She thought both symptoms were the result of extensive business travel, so Sandra started taking Aspirin to relieve the fluid retention in her feet. The doctors later suggested that the Aspirin may have saved her life on the flight home.
Upon her return from this trip, she sought out a cardiologist, who ordered a Thalium stress test. There were several abnormalities on her stress test and she was hospitalized. The next morning she underwent a heart catheterization, which showed a 95% blocked, proximal Left Anterior Descending coronary artery in her heart. Sandra was told she was on the brink of a "widow-maker” heart attack. The doctor tapped her on the shoulder and said he was not sure how she was still here. Sandra was certain that her father was sitting on her shoulder, guiding her to the right care.
How could she have done everything right – good diet, target weight, regular exercise, normal cholesterol, never smoked, and yet nearly die of a heart attack -- at age 39? Sandra asked her doctor this question; he ran an advanced cholesterol (lipid) test, and found that she had inherited a cholesterol (lipid) abnormality called high Lipoprotein(a) from her father.
High Lipoprotein(a) is a causal factor for premature cardiovascular disease, which Sandra inherited. It is conservatively estimated that, 1 in 5 Americans have high Lp(a); moreover, each child born to a parent with elevated Lp(a) has a high risk of inheriting it.
She is the Founder of the Lipoprotein(a) Foundation, with the vision to live in a world where elevated Lp(a) is routinely diagnosed, treated and family screened. There is currently no treatment for high Lp(a). The foundation has a long way to go, but they are starting the conversation about inherited premature cardiovascular disease due to high Lipoprotein(a). Sandra doesn’t want anyone to experience the tragic loss of a family member. She wants the research data -- and a treatment -- to be in place to help her daughter and all those children who have a high risk of inheriting elevated Lp(a) from their parents, to protect them from these serious and tragic risks.