Many of our physical qualities are determined by our genes. This includes eye color, height, and even whether someone has a dimples.

Scientists are discovering that some genes can cause serious health conditions, such as high cholesterol, which can cause other health conditions.

Some people may be more likely to have high cholesterol because of a genetic variation called the APOE4 gene.

The APOE gene makes the protein apolipoprotein E (Apo E). Apo E is involved in the production, transport, and use of cholesterol in the body. There are three different common variations of the APOE gene: E2, E3, and E4.

Human beings have two sets of genes, one for each cell. There are 6 possible combinations of the APOE gene.

The E3/E3 combination is the most common one and is found in approximately 60% of people. This is associated with normal blood cholesterol levels.

The APOE4 gene variant is most common in Africans and African Americans but can be found in varying degrees in ethnic groups across the globe.

People with the APOE4 gene variant have a greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s and heart disease. If you have two copies of APOE4, experts say the risk of heart disease is increased by 45% and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is 12 times higher.

Recent research from MIT indicates that choline supplements may be helpful in reversing the effect the APOE4 gene has on the brain’s ability to metabolize lipids and respond to stress.

A low fat, high cholesterol diet may help to reduce the risks associated with the cholesterol levels. A low-fat diet is recommended for people with the APOE2 gene.

People with different variations of the APOE gene are more susceptible to having high levels of cholesterol in their blood.

Low levels of LDL are associated with the genes. The E4 variant is characterized by faster cholesterol metabolism. This results in higher total cholesterol and LDL levels for people with the same genes.

People with an E4/E4 gene combo are more likely to have high LDL levels. A person who carries an E2/E4 gene combination is usually similar to an E3/E3. This would mean that normal expected cholesterol levels are met. A person with an E3/E4 gene mix has a risk level that is between E3/E3 and E4/E4.

High amounts of LDL is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. LDL cholesterol is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in the walls of arteries. This can increase blood pressure and raise a person’s chance of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

Even without the genes, an individual can have high levels of LDL. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise are some of the risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol.

Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an inherited condition that results in high LDL and total cholesterol levels. There’s currently genetic testing available for FH, but it has limitations.

“FH may not always be revealed through genetic testing, because some of the genes that cause FH are still unknown. Most people with high cholesterol don’t have FH, so genetic testing based on high cholesterol levels may not be helpful.”

FH diagnoses are not required to have genetic testing. Your cholesterol levels, family health history, and physical signs are all indicators of FH. If you believe you are at risk for FH, you may want to have genetic testing.

There are genes that are looked at for known FH-causing genes.

If you have a family member with an FH mutation, you should be tested. If no specific FH mutation has been found in your family, you can still be tested.

Even if you don’t have an FH-causing mutation, you can still be at risk for heart disease from other factors, including high cholesterol. Your cholesterol levels can be checked through a blood test called a lipid panel.

The production and treatment of cholesterol is impacted by the APOE gene.

“There are three common variations of the same genes. The variation of the APOE4 gene can mean that you are more likely to have high levels of liquid crystal display. People with the APOE4 gene are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”

If you have two copies of the same genetic variation, you may want to talk to your doctor or geneticist about the risks and ways to reduce them.