Doctors are calling for more testing about a little-known heart condition after a healthy father of five dropped dead while on a run.
Ben Beale was just 47 when he had a heart attack while out jogging and preparing for a charity boxing fight in Perth in 2017.
He had been medically cleared just a week before the event.
His wife Sarah Beale said her husband’s death was originally thought to be a ‘one-off catastrophic event’ with tests before his death showing he had a low chance of having a heart attack in the future.
Doctors are calling for more testing about a second little-known ‘bad cholesterol’ lipoprotein (a) after father of five Ben Beale (left) dropped dead while on a run preparing for a charity boxing match in Perth
Professor Jason Kovacic, executive director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, said Mr Beale had an elevated rate of the little-known cholesterol lipoprotein (a) – known as Lp(a) – which contributed to his heart attack.
He says this largely unknown type of cholesterol increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks in young people.
Prof Kovacic said the data linking Lp(a) to higher levels of strokes and heart attacks is ‘unquestionable’.
It is believed that up to 20 per cent of the population might have at least a mild elevation of Lp(a).
Prof Kovacic, however, said many doctors and the public were completely unaware of Lp(a) which he referred to as the ‘second bad cholesterol’.
LDL cholesterol is largely known as ‘bad cholesterol’. High levels of LDL are usually lifestyle related, and raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unlike LDL, Lp(a) levels are considered largely genetic so even those who lead healthy lifestyles can have high levels.
Cardiologists have found higher levels of Lp(a) in families with a history of heart attacks and in individuals who have had heart attacks and strokes in their 30s.
Professor Jason Kovacic (pictured) said the data linking Lp(a) to higher levels of strokes and heart attacks is ‘unquestionable’. It is believed that up to 20 per cent of the population might have at least a mild elevation of Lp(a)
Prof Kovacic told The Sydney Morning Herald that high levels of Lp(a) could be responsible for heart attacks among young, largely healthy individuals.
‘We have long wondered why healthy people with low cholesterol levels and seemingly no other major risk factors like smoking or diabetes can suffer heart attacks,’ he said.
According to Prof Kovacic, an autopsy of Beale’s death showed he had ‘extensive cholesterol and fat in the walls of his arteries’.
‘That’s what we see in people that have genetically higher levels of Lp(a) … they just have rapid progression of a lot of cholesterol and fat laid out in the walls of their arteries, and they just have a heart attack early on before the thing’s even had an opportunity to harden [into calcium],’ the cardiologist said.
The autopsy results of Mr Beale also showed he had suffered two to three heart attacks previously, and that a portion of his heart was already dead.
Ms Beale said her husband was ‘extremely fit’ and wishes in hindsight they had got more blood tests done.
The autopsy results of Mr Beale showed he had suffered two to three heart attacks previously, and that a portion of his heart was already dead. His wife Sarah Beale said her husband was ‘extremely fit’ and she is now working with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute to make a change
‘If we’d known, he could have been tested for Lp(a). It would have completely changed our entire life,’ she said.
Ms Beale said following her husband’s death, four family members returned results of elevated Lp(a) and she is now working with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute to make a change.
‘I’m determined to ensure that Ben’s death does not just become just another statistic – which is why I am urging you all to support our plans to establish the Ben Beale Laboratory in Cardiovascular Research,’ Ms Beale said in a statement.
‘We’re committed to opening this laboratory at the Institute’s base at the University of Western Australia on April 24th – to mark the fifth anniversary of Ben’s passing.’
‘What happened to Ben could happen to any of us – he was at the peak of his fitness and health and had no idea he was suffering from a disease that takes far too many lives.’