Less than 50% unaware of family heart disease history

02 November 2017 08:38

It's estimated 160,000 people in the UK have heart disease

It's estimated 160,000 people in the UK have heart disease

Only half of people know whether heart disease runs in their family, a new survey has found.

According to the charity Cardiomyopathy UK, 54% of those polled are unaware whether or not they have a family history of such conditions, meaning they could be predisposed to developing them without knowing.

"It's essential that families start talking to each other about heart disease within the family," said Joel Rose, chief executive of Cardiomyopathy UK.

"Sudden cardiac deaths can only be prevented if people at risk are identified. We would urge anyone with symptoms of cardiomyopathy or a family history to speak to their GP."

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Genetic testing

There are more than 160,000 people in Britain with heart disease, Cardiomyopathy UK estimates.

However, the poll of 2,000 adults across the UK found that almost a third (31%) say their GP has never asked them if they have a family history.

Cardiomyopathy - the general term for diseases of the heart muscle - can be passed on through families, says June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.

She says: "Some members of a family may be affected more than others and some family members may not be affected or have any symptoms at all. If you have any close relatives - such as parents, siblings or children - who have cardiomyopathy, you may also have inherited the faulty gene, putting you at risk."

Ms Davison urges anyone with a close family member known to have the condition to contact a doctor and discuss the possibility of genetic testing.

A 'crucial indicator'

The charity has launched an awareness campaign urging families to discuss their medical histories.

The campaign will also promote recognition of the symptoms of heart problems, such as chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness, tiredness, swollen ankles or tummy, dizziness or fainting.

"Young people are the biggest losers in the diagnosis lottery as they don't conform to a 'typical heart patient' so they are often misdiagnosed and their cardiomyopathy symptoms attributed to something else like asthma," Mr Rose says.

He says society needs to abandon any preconceptions or stereotypes about what a patient with a heart condition looks like, and use symptoms and family history to improve early detection statistics.

He added: "Family history is a crucial indicator of risk, and we all need to take action and start talking more for this to change."

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