Up to half a million people in the UK are at unusually high risk of developing heart disease or dying suddenly at a young age due to a faulty gene, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates.
Years of under-diagnosis has seen the estimate shoot up from 380,000 bringing with it a deadly legacy that can span generations. Someone living with an inherited heart condition has a 50:50 chance of passing it on to their children, the BHF warns.
Each year around 600 apparently healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation.
To alert people of the potential risks and the benefits of early diagnosis BHF has launched its Fight for Every Heartbeat campaign. It also highlight the importance of urgent research into inherited heart conditions hidden within so many family trees.
BHF medical director Professor Peter Weissberg 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.”
The campaign, which launches on television and online today, features baby Zara Stroud whose mother Caroline discovered that she had a faulty gene for an inherited heart condition before she became pregnant. She knew that there was a 50:50 chance it could be passed on to her baby. Zara might have the faulty gene but her condition is being monitored.
The news comes as over the weekend it was claimed that the vast majority of people cannot identify the common symptoms of heart failure, a poll suggests.
And many may be dismissing the symptoms as a “normal sign of ageing”, the survey found.
The symptoms of heart failure can vary from person to person but the main signs are breathlessness, extreme tiredness, and ankle swelling. These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than heart failure, but patient group, The Pumping Marvellous Foundation, said it is important for people to be aware of the symptoms.
The comments come after a poll, sponsored by pharmaceutical company Novartis, found that only five per cent of Britons could identify three common symptoms of heart failure.