Up to half a million people in the UK are at unusually high risk of developing heart disease or dying suddenly at a young age due to a faulty gene, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates.
Years of under-diagnosis has seen the estimate shoot up from 380,000 bringing with it a deadly legacy that can span generations. Someone living with an inherited heart condition has a 50:50 chance of passing it onto their children, the BHF warns.
“A genetic test in a child of an affected parent can save their life”
Each year around 600 apparently healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation, leaving families shocked and distraught .
To alert people of the potential risks and the benefits of early diagnosis BHF has launched its Fight for Every Heartbeat campaign. It also highlight the importance of urgent research into inherited heart conditions hidden within so many family trees.
BHF medical director Professor Peter Weissberg said: “We urgently need to accelerate research into inherited heart conditions. Over recent years researchers have made great strides in identifying some of the genes that cause inherited heart conditions.
“A genetic test in a child of an affected parent can save their life. More research is now urgently needed to identify all the genes responsible for these deadly disorders,” he said.
“Pinpointing genes which cause inherited heart conditions will allow affected children to be protected and, in the long term, will lead to new treatments to overcome the effects of the faulty gene,” he added.
The campaign, which launches on television and online today, features baby Zara Stroud whose mother Caroline discovered that she had a faulty gene for an inherited heart condition before she became pregnant.
She knew that there was a 50:50 chance it could be passed onto her baby. Zara might have the faulty gene but her condition is being monitored.