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Inherited heart conditions force families in the West Midlands to gamble on genetic roulette

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: May 31, 2014

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The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates around half a million people in the UK and 51,000 in the West Midlands alone could be living with a faulty gene putting them at unusually high risk of developing heart disease or dying suddenly at a young age (1). This deadly legacy can span generations – someone living with an inherited heart condition has a 50:50 chance of passing it onto their children (2).

As a result the BHF has launched its Fight for Every Heartbeat campaign to highlight the importance of urgent research into inherited heart conditions hidden within so many family trees.

Previous estimates suggested up to 28,000 people in the West Midlands could be living with a faulty gene but underdiagnosis means this figure may be much higher (3).

Each year in the UK around 600 apparently healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation, leaving families shocked and distraught (4).

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Despite advancements in research into inherited heart conditions many faulty genes still remain undiscovered.

Finding those genes is the first step towards developing improved genetic tests to find people at risk. An early diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death.

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, 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.

“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.”

Find out more about the campaign and the BHF’s life-saving research at bhf.org.uk/fight.

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