LEWISTON — A genetic disorder that causes extremely high cholesterol levels at a young age strikes at 10 times the national rate in Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn area.

The Sun Journal of Lewiston says Sunday that familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, is found most often in people of Native American or French Canadian descent. Experts say about 1 in every 300 to 500 people has the disorder.

Cardiologist Dervilla McCann, who’s been studying FH for two decades, believes the Lewiston-Auburn area, with its large French Canadian population, has about 10 times the national rate.

Normally, the body naturally clears cholesterol from the blood. Significant buildup in blood vessels can take decades. First heart attacks generally occur in people in their 60s.

But that cholesterol-clearing system doesn’t work in people with FH and in some cases heart disease begins in childhood.

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