Home Health news My dad, grandfather and two uncles died from heart attacks before 40 – now, at age 38, I’m fighting the deadly genetic curse that’s given me FOUR heart attacks already

My dad, grandfather and two uncles died from heart attacks before 40 – now, at age 38, I’m fighting the deadly genetic curse that’s given me FOUR heart attacks already

by Editor

Heart disease has torn through Brandon Wilson’s life. 

He was just seven years old when his father, 39, was killed by a fatal heart attack – which was later found to have been caused by an undiagnosed genetic condition. 

His grandfather and two uncles died before the age of 40 from heart complications caused by the disorder that claimed his half-brother at age 48.

The condition causes the arteries to become clogged up with the dangerous type of cholesterol.

Now 38 himself, and having already survived four major heart attacks, Mr Wilson has vowed to break the vicious cycle and see his four-year-old daughter and five-year-old son grow up. 

Brandon Wilson, 38, lost four family members to heart disease, many of whom were under age 35. He long feared he also wouldn't make it to 40

Brandon Wilson, 38, lost four family members to heart disease, many of whom were under age 35. He long feared he also wouldn’t make it to 40

Mr Wilson has familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disorder that leads to high LDL (bad) cholesterol. This significantly raises the risk of heart disease

Mr Wilson has familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disorder that leads to high LDL (bad) cholesterol. This significantly raises the risk of heart disease

For most of his life, Mr Wilson has feared it could kill him at any point, especially as he approaches his 39th birthday.

‘Here’s the way I saw it. I wasn’t going to make it past 40. I’m just going to live with this Wilson family curse and die at an early age. And that was going to be it,’ he told DailyMail.com.

‘There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding that. I kind of want to live in a bubble for a year. Making it to 40 is such an accomplishment for me, for a Wilson man.

After his father’s death, Mr Wilson’s mother had him and his siblings undergo a round of bloodwork. 

But it wasn’t until years later when was diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disorder affecting around one in 250 Americans that leads to dangerously high LDL (bad) cholesterol.

This is a key risk factor in heart disease, which kills almost 18 million adults in the world every year. 

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that can build up in arteries that supply our organs with oxygenated blood.

This causes problems with the flow of blood around the body, making the heart work harder and increasing the chance of it weakening, leading to heart attack and heart disease. 

The brain, meanwhile, can become deprived of oxygen, raising the risk of a stroke. 

‘I was diagnosed with basically, “It runs in the family,”‘ he said. ‘But that went on for about 20 years before I got a real diagnosis.’

‘In my early twenties, I had chest pain, and I would go to the ER. Nobody would take me seriously. “You’re a young guy. Nothing is wrong with you.”‘

However, at 29, he suffered a widowmaker heart attack. This happens when you have a blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery, the largest in the heart. 

The LAD supplies about half of the heart’s blood supply. 

This was the first of Mr Wilson’s four heart attacks. For years, doctors dismissed him and would recommend a course of statins, which are meant to lower cholesterol.

Mr Wilson has had four heart attacks, seven coronary stents, and a stroke as a result of his condition. 'The year I first met with the Mayo team, my wife was planning on being a widow,' he said. 'We weren't sure if I was going to make it to the new year'

Mr Wilson has had four heart attacks, seven coronary stents, and a stroke as a result of his condition. ‘The year I first met with the Mayo team, my wife was planning on being a widow,’ he said. ‘We weren’t sure if I was going to make it to the new year’

Two of Mr Wilson's young children have inherited genetic markers for high cholesterol. He said that he is on a mission to make sure heart disease 'ends' with him

Two of Mr Wilson’s young children have inherited genetic markers for high cholesterol. He said that he is on a mission to make sure heart disease ‘ends’ with him

At 35, one of his massive heart attacks led him to need quadruple bypass surgery. Also known as coronary artery bypass surgery, the goal of this procedure is to create a new path for blood to flow around a blocked artery. 

This involves taking a healthy blood vessel from the chest or the leg and connecting it below the blocked artery to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.  

Despite the surgery, he suffered another heart attack a year later. 

The level that constitutes high cholesterol depends on if you have additional risk factors for heart disease, such as elevated blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, or obesity. 

For those with no other risk factors, an LDL of at least 190 mg/dl is considered high. With one risk factor, it goes down to 160 mg/dl. If you have two or more risk factors, 130 mg/dl is high. 

In children, an LDL of 130 mg/dl is considered high.  

Mr Wilson was eventually led to the Family Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that works with patients who have familial hypercholesterolemia. 

'There's some nights that I'm afraid to go to sleep because I don't know if I'm going to wake up,' Mr Wilson said. 'The anxiety is horrible'

‘There’s some nights that I’m afraid to go to sleep because I don’t know if I’m going to wake up,’ Mr Wilson said. ‘The anxiety is horrible’

'I may have given them high cholesterol, but I have not given them heart disease,' Mr Wilson said about his kids. 'Heart disease has taken so much from my family. I refuse to let it take my children'

‘I may have given them high cholesterol, but I have not given them heart disease,’ Mr Wilson said about his kids. ‘Heart disease has taken so much from my family. I refuse to let it take my children’

This causes the heart to work harder, which increases the chance of it weakening, leading to heart attack and heart disease. The brain, meanwhile, becomes deprived of oxygen, raising the risk of a stroke.

Greasy foods, smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise can all raise LDL cholesterol, though some people with a family history can be genetically predisposed to it.

The level that constitutes high cholesterol depends on if you have additional risk factors for heart disease, such as elevated blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, or obesity. 

For those with no other risk factors, an LDL of at least 190 mg/dl is considered high. With one risk factor, it goes down to 160 mg/dl. If you have two or more risk factors, 130 mg/dl is high. 

In children, an LDL of 130 mg/dl is considered high.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), familial hypercholesterolemia affects about one in 250 Americans.

Mr Wilson also has a mutation in his LPA gene, which regulates LDL cholesterol. 

Shortly after this, he started treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. 

‘I probably wouldn’t be around unless I found the Family Heart Foundation,’ he said. ‘And the year I first met with the Mayo team, my wife was planning on being a widow. 

‘We weren’t sure if I was going to make it to the new year.’

In addition to the heart attacks, Mr Wilson has had seven coronary stents placed and a transient ischemic attack, also known as a mini stroke, which occurs when blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted. 

He also struggles with peripheral artery disease (PAD), which narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to the arms and legs. This can lead to intense pain, as well as numbness and weakness.

‘There are times where I can only walk maybe 50 yards until my leg starts burning, and I’m out of breath. I used to be very active. I used to play softball with my kid, but now it’s a little more difficult.’

‘I’m a young man in an old man’s body.’

‘It’s been hard. I struggle with PTSD, anxiety. I suffer from chronic angina, chest pain. There’s some nights that I’m afraid to go to sleep because I don’t know if I’m going to wake up.’

‘The anxiety is horrible.’ 

Mr Wilson now works with a team of cardiologists, neurologists, and vascular surgeons to manage his condition. 

This includes frequent trips to the catheterization laboratory, also known as the cath lab, where doctors work to open up his blocked arteries and improve blood flow. 

‘I call my cardiologist my hero,’ he said. ‘They’ve gotten me on the right medications, as well as the right treatments. 

‘When I go to them, I feel confident that they’re doing everything to help me.’

‘I’ve got to take like 14 pills a day, but I don’t mind taking them because they’re doing the job.’

However, Mr Wilson’s four-year-old daughter inherited familial hypercholesterolemia, while his five-year-old son was diagnosed with the same lipoprotein (a) genetic marker.

Mr Wilson is now focusing on advocacy work and instilling healthy habits in his children so they don’t develop heart issues later on. 

Ultimately, his goal is to break his family’s generational curse. 

‘I may have given them high cholesterol, but I have not given them heart disease. They will never have to know a life of heart attacks and all the different things I’ve had to go through and struggle with,’ he said. 

‘Heart disease has taken so much from my family. I refuse to let it take my children.’ 

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