1 May 2019
Is it possible to inherit heart conditions?
We associate heart problems with poor lifestyle choices – unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, chronic stress – that sort of thing. However, science paints a more complex picture of heart health. Genetics also play a role in the way our heart functions. If members of our close and extended family had heart conditions, we’re more likely to be at risk.
Let’s examine the role genes play in heart problems and the importance of screening for existing heart conditions.
The genetic link
Inherited heart conditions come from a fault in one or more of our genes. Depending on your parents’ genetics, these can pass onto future generations. It’s even possible to carry a faulty gene but never develop any symptoms of the conditions.
Thankfully, we now have a better understanding of inherited conditions that increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA occurs when the electrical signals in the heart malfunction, causing the blood to stop pumping around the body and the brain and other vital organs suffering because of it. Unless effective CPR and a defibrillator are used quickly, an SCA is often fatal.
There are several common genetic conditions that all have unique effects on the heart’s electrical rhythms, increasing the risk of an SCA:
- Brugada Syndrome: this affects the heart’s rhythm, increasing the risk of ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest.
- Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia: the heart struggles with electrical signalling and irregular heartbeats, especially during exercise.
- Long and Short QT Syndrome: changes in the QT interval can cause potentially life-threatening changes to the heartbeat.
The shock of sudden cardiac arrest
Nothing can prepare a family for the tragic, often completely shocking, case of sudden cardiac arrest. In young people particularly, these are often caused by undiagnosed hereditary heart conditions.
Due to genetic risk factors, family members are recommended to seek medical screening to identify any existing hereditary heart conditions. If identified, monitoring and treatment can begin quickly to reduce the risk of another tragic incident of sudden cardiac arrest.
With a medical professional, you can begin to draw out a “cardiac” family tree that helps you understand the risk of heart conditions in your extended family.
Unlike our lifestyle, genetics may feel out of our control. The worry of hereditary heart conditions might feel overwhelming, but once identified, it’s important to know there is treatment and help available. If heart problems and conditions seem to be a recurring problem in your family, seek guidance from your GP or physician about the screening and potential treatment process. Don’t leave any heart problems hidden. Do something before it’s too late.
At Defib365, it’s our mission to provide businesses and communities across the UK with defibrillators. Investing in just one for your organisation can make the difference between life and death. Whether you would prefer to lease or buy our products, get in touch today on 0333 050 6649 to find out how we can help you.