Hundreds of Wigan people are carrying a faulty gene that puts them at high risk of coronary heart disease or sudden death.
Worryingly, the majority of people affected are undiagnosed and unaware they are in danger, says the British Heart Foundation (BHF) which estimates 68,000 people have the defective gene across the North West.
The figure is higher than previous estimates due to better understanding of the prevalence of inherited heart conditions.
These can affect people of any age and each child of someone with an inherited heart condition can have a 50 per cent chance of inheriting it. For many families, the first sign there’s a problem is when someone dies suddenly with no obvious cause or explanation.
Each week in the UK around 12 seemingly healthy people aged 35 or under are victims of sudden cardiac death with no explanation, largely due to these devastating conditions.
Former England cricketer, James Taylor is backing a new BHF TV campaign featuring a bridesmaid who suffers a cardiac arrest due to an inherited heart condition on her sister’s wedding day. Taylor was forced to retire at the age of 26 after being diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) last April.
ARVC is an inherited heart condition that causes heart muscle to be replaced by fibrous tissue and fat so the ventricle becomes thin and stretched, meaning the heart does not pump blood around the body properly and there is an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Taylor said: “It is safe to say that being diagnosed with ARVC was the toughest and scariest week of my life. I never would have thought it would happen to me, I was 26 years old and playing cricket for England but my condition meant that I was at risk of sudden death from a cardiac arrest.
“I was lucky as my condition was detected early and despite having to give up my career, with medication I can lead a relatively normal life. But it could have been an incredibly different story. Please help the BHF fund even more life saving research and together, we can fight back against these conditions that rip families apart.”
BHF medical director Prof Sir Nilesh Samani said: “If undetected and untreated, inherited heart conditions, can be deadly and they continue to devastate families, often by taking away loved ones without warning. We urgently need to fund more research to better understand these heart conditions, make more discoveries, develop new treatments and save more lives.”
For more information and advice about inherited heart conditions and to support the BHF to fund more research to end the devastation of heart disease visit www.bhf.org.uk/unexpected