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Family history could hold clues to your heart health

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 12:28 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Do you know your family’s medical history? It can serve as a guide to your health, especially when it comes to your heart health.

There are certain heart conditions that are inherited.

“Inherited heart conditions are often genetic in origin and we have over the last 20 years been identifying genetic mutations that are responsible for many different cardiac conditions,” explained Dr. Judith Mackall.

Mackall is University Hospitals’ director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic Center.

She said there are some things patients share about their family that could be important clues about diseases they may have inherited.

One of those inherited heart diseases is cardiomyopathy, or an abnormality of the heart muscle itself. With this, there are some patients who have a family history of heart failure.

“The most commonly inherited cardiomyopathy is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle. It is one of the leading causes of sudden death in young people,” stated Mackall.

Dr. Mackall said if you know someone in your family is predisposed to a heart condition, there are different ways doctors can screen for it.

“So we can screen you for the disease. It doesn’t tell us whether you are carrying a gene mutation, but we often will only look for gene mutations in people who are manifesting the disease,” explained Mackall.

If you know your parents have a genetic condition, and you have children, Dr. Mackall suggests sharing that information with their pediatrician.

“Some of the heart muscle disorders we screen every two-to-three years in childhood, because we recognize that these can develop at any time,” described Mackall.

When it comes to genetic testing and your insurance:

“So, your genetic testing that we do to identify a health problem, just because you have the mutation, doesn’t mean you have the disease. You can carry the gene and not express it,” said Mackall.

Legally, health insurance companies can’t use genetic information to determine coverage.

In general, there are things to pay attention to that should prompt a cardio evaluation: If you have an unexplained passing out, passing out with exercise, and unexplained palpitations, or any symptom that is brought on by stress.

Paying attention to your heart health is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

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