Although heart conditions are common, only a small portion are due to a single inherited genetic risk someone may have. This type of inherited risk for heart conditions is caused by a small change (called a mutation) in someone’s genes, which can be passed from parent to child. When someone inherits this type of gene mutation from a parent, they have an increased risk to get heart problems.
Some heart conditions that can be inherited are:
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias, like long QT syndrome)
- Heart muscle problems (cardiomyopathies, like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)
- Some differences to how the heart is formed, often noticed at birth (congenital heart disease, like a ventral septal defect or VSD)
- A form of high blood cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
- Problems with the main artery in the body becoming enlarged or tearing (aortic aneurysms or dissections)
Family members share genes and may, therefore, share gene mutations associated with heart conditions. Relatives with the same heart condition gene mutation share an increased risk to get heart problems.
Sometimes, a gene mutation can increase the risk of heart problems that may occur with other health concerns as well. For example, mutations in the FBN1 gene cause an increased risk for aortic aneurysms, but also for a collapsed lung, vision issues and other health concerns.
Certain patterns of heart conditions can be signs of inherited heart problems in a family. Examples include a family history of someone dying suddenly at a young age with no cause found, or multiple close family members having the same type of heart condition diagnosed at younger than 50 years of age. Genetic experts are medical professionals trained to look for genetic risk factors you might have for inherited heart conditions. They can help you learn more about these risk factors, which may include talking about genetic testing and developing your best action plan to address your risks.