Risk factors for heart disease are well known when it comes to classic heart disease that causes heart attacks, however many families neglect to recognize that there are other heart conditions that can be genetic or familial meaning showing up in families.
These conditions can include:
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
- Marfan Syndrome
- Congenital Heart Disease
- Familial Hypercholesterolemia
- Blood Clotting Disorder
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest/ Long QT syndrome
- Aortic Dissection
- Aortic Aneurysm
- Valve disease
Early detection and management can be critical in each of these issues.
Modern medicine can help through use of medications, imaging of the heart structures, use of devices such as filters or implantable defibrillators to help prevent major problems from occurring. Families should make sure they communicate about issues as they can skip generations or show up in other siblings children. My own family has issues with Marfan Syndrome and Valve issues. Without knowing that someone could look at my family members and think they would be excellent in basketball or volleyball, however with this syndrome competitive vigorous exercise can be lethal. Problems such as Long QT syndrome can be addressed with medications and defibrillators and some are able to compete competitively.
By detecting early families can manage the issues that come with heart problems.
The problems include mentally accepting the issues, financial implications, health insurance, setting realistic goals, disability etc. I had a patient with Marfan Syndrome who turned down disability in his early 30’s before he really understood the serious implications of the disease. By the time he was in his 50’s he called himself the multimillion dollar man, as each surgery he needed could not be done locally and had to go to Cleveland Clinic or Mayo, and was very complicated given his condition. It wasn’t unusual for him to have a bill of over a million from each surgery. He was denied disability over and over again, because he turned it down early in life. Today we have lots of advocacy organizations for each heart condition to help address these issues. If families connect with these early education is a powerful tool and can arm themselves with current case law and resources to prevent such problems from occurring.