Inherited Heart Diseases

21 January, 2019

Many heart diseases can be hereditary and affect more than one person in a family. Following the familial history, a doctor can determine the risks of another member developing the same condition and can offer timely preventative measures to prevent further grief.

Some of these inherited cardiac disorders include congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, cardiac amyloidosis, cardiac myxoma, arrhythmias, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, etc. Other conditions like valvular heart disease, Long QT syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Brugada syndrome, coronary artery diseases leading to heart attacks, stroke and heart failure all run in families, indicating the involvement of genetic factors.

Every human has 20-25,000 genes which control the functioning of all aspects of their body, including the structure of the cardiovascular system, the strength of the blood vessels, the cardiac muscles and the way heart cells communicate with one another. Mutations in a single gene here can result in abnormal function and have the potential of being passed down from parent to child. These conditions can affect a person any age and become life-threatening.

With the heart’s health being so crucial to life, it’s essential to be educated about ways to look out for its wellbeing. When a family member is diagnosed with a heart condition, others should use the opportunity and check out their own chances of developing the condition too. This way they can control the risk factors involved at an early stage itself and prevent or at least delay the onset of such cardiac diseases or disorders in themselves.

If left untreated or detected, inherited heart conditions can lead to heart failure or cardiac arrests, resulting in sudden death. In many families, the first indication of a heritable heart condition is when someone dies suddenly without any obvious explanation. While many are asymptomatic, some may present with dizzy spells, palpitations or blackouts.

Diagnosing inherited heart conditions can be challenging but your specialist may suspect it when you are diagnosed with angina or had a heart attack at a young age, have a history of sudden premature deaths in your family or if a member of your family has been diagnosed with a heritable heart condition.

So what happens next if a family member is diagnosed with an inherited heart condition? Usually, your doctor will perform some screening tests to check the health of your heart or even prescribe genetic tests commonly known as cascade testing. This will benefit you greatly as it cuts down your risk of sudden deaths and you can be monitored and treatments started at an early stage.