A charity organization has warned people of the risks of developing coronary heart disease or even sudden death due to a faulty heart gene, saying that an estimated 620,000 people in the UK have the gene but most are unaware. The figure was said to be 100,000 more than had been originally thought and could be even higher.
The British Heart Foundation said there was now a better grasp of the prevalence of inherited conditions. A child of someone with an inherited heart condition can have a 50% chance of inheriting it themselves.
The charity warned that the overall figure for those with the faulty gene could be much higher because of as yet undiscovered faulty genes and under-diagnoses.
Each week in the UK, around 12 seemingly healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation, largely due to undiagnosed heart conditions.
Former England and Nottinghamshire cricketer James Taylor was diagnosed last year with the serious heart condition arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and was forced to retire at the age of 26.
In an interview with a local news agency, he said he had been warming up for the first game of the season in Cambridge when his heart started “going mental in my chest”. He said his heart was beating so hard, people could see his shirt moving.
After going to the hospital, he was told that it was a miracle he was able to walk in as his heart rate was going at 265 beats per minute. A normal resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute, but Taylor’s remained at 265 for six to seven hours – “the equivalent of doing five, six marathons.”
He now treats the condition with medication and said he was fortunate to survive.
Research has helped to discover many of the faulty genes that cause inherited heart conditions.This has led to the development of structured genetic testing services for those at highest risk for some of these conditions.However, the British Heart Foundation says more research is urgently needed.
Prof. Sir Nilesh Samani, BHF medical director, said: “The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of people across the UK who are unaware that they could be at risk of sudden death.”
He said that if undetected and untreated, inherited heart conditions can be deadly and they continue to devastate families, often by taking away loved ones without warning.
“We urgently need to fund more research to better understand these heart conditions, make more discoveries, develop new treatments and save more lives,” he added.