Heart Diseases

We've all heard someone comment that "it runs in the family" when talking about high blood pressure and heart attacks. Inherited heart conditions and/or disorders can affect people of any age and can be life threatening. For many families, the first sign there's a problem is when someone dies suddenly with no obvious cause or explanation. When a family member is diagnosed with heart disease or a heart disorder, other family members are encouraged to undergo screening for risk factors and early stage disease that may not yet produce symptoms.

Genetics can influence the risk for heart disease in many ways. Genes control every aspect of the cardiovascular system ranging from the how strong our blood vessels are to the way each cells in the heart communicates with one another. It's well understood that even a single gene change or mutation can affect the likelihood of developing heart disease. For example, a genetic variation can change the way a particular protein works so that the body processes cholesterol differently, increasing the likelihood of blocked arteries. If a defect is found in connective tissue, like in Marfan syndrome, the heart will likely be affected as it is comprised of connective tissue.

There are a number of inherited disorders that can cause rhythm disturbances and sudden cardiac death. Some of these are very rare.

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