October 25, 2016

More than 100 babies a week born at risk of killer heart defects – and parents don’t know

UP to half a million people are living with genetic defects which puts them at risk from a potentially fatal heart condition.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates more than 6,000 babies are born with the defects every year, equalling more than 115 babies every week.

A vast number of these people leave the conditions undiagnosed through their life – leaving them at risk of deadly heart attacks or cardiac arrests.

Heart doctors are urging families to get checked, particularly if they have a member of the family with a heart condition.

An inherited heart condition can span generations: someone living with certain types of inherited heart condition has a 50:50 chance of passing it onto their children.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, is also needing more investment in research to increase diagnosis.

He said: “We urgently need to accelerate research into inherited heart conditions that take the lives of hundreds of young people in the UK every year, often without warning.

“Our research has helped make great progress in identifying some of the gene defects that cause these heart conditions, and as a result genetic testing is now available for many people with a family history of an inherited heart disease. However, many of the causative defects remain undiscovered.

“We urgently need people’s support to enable us to fund more research into these gene defects so that patients at risk can be identified before they have a serious cardiac event and so that we can work towards developing treatments to neutralise the effects of the faulty gene.”

Research has suggested that each week in the UK 12 apparently FIT and HEALTHY people aged 35 and under die from an undiagnosed heart condition.

As many as one in 120 people are born with a genetic fault that leaves them susceptible to conditions including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).

HCM is an inherited disease of your heart muscle, where the muscle wall of your heart becomes thickened.

FM leads to exceptionally high cholesterol levels, often double and sometimes FOUR times those of the general population.

The BHF estimate that in the UK as many as half a million people are living with one of these genetic defects.

Worryingly for some – including high profile sportspeople such as rugby league player Danny Jones who died last year – there is no warning before the underlying condition causes a sudden cardiac arrest.

Despite advances in research into inherited heart conditions, many gene defects still remain undiscovered.

According to the heart charity, identifying those defects is the first step towards developing improved genetic tests to identify people at risk so that they can be treated.

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