The genetic information passed down to us from our parents contains almost everything that makes us who we are, from what color our hair and eyes are to the shapes of our faces and feet. Many interesting and wonderful genetic traits meet and combine to form unique and distinguishable human beings with varying body sizes, voice timbres, and characteristic quirks.
Unfortunately, not everything passed down to us is something entirely possible. While for many of us it can be our annoyingly persistent belly fat or an imperfect height, for others the material passed to us can be downright deadly.
Heart defects and diseases are some of the more dangerous genetic problems that can be passed down from generation to generation. Some are worse than others, but if left unrecognized and untreated, each can be deadly or destructive in their own way.
Today we’re going to discuss three of the most common genetic heart diseases and how to identify them through symptoms and signs. Using this information, you can better understand the diseases and take the appropriate action if you think it’s possible you may be suffering from one of them.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a relatively common heart disease that causes a thickening of part or all of the heart muscle. In its most acute forms, it can even cause sudden death as the heart is starved of proper blood flow.
The danger is primarily caused by the thickening of the interventricular septum, or the wall that separates the left and right ventricles. This thickening can have a number of different negative effects, including preventing proper blood flow from the heart and putting excess pressure on the leftmost ventricle.
These can cause symptoms such as feeling short of breath, chest pain, and arrhythmia. For more severe cases, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, and fluid buildup that causes painful swelling can occur, as well as the previously mentioned heart attacks from improper blood flow to the heart.
The disease can develop in people of any age and often those who acquire it don’t have any noticeable negative effects at all. If caught early enough, medical intervention can prevent the disease from progressing or causing future complications.
2. Familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Representing the opposite effect of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a genetic disease that causes heart muscles to stretch out and become thin and weak. Both diseases cause the heart to become significantly less able to effectively circulate blood throughout the body.
Unlike HCM, DCM can affect either the right or the left chamber. As the muscles become thinner and begin stretching out, the chambers become enlarged and engorged, causing the weak heart muscle to begin to fail as it struggles to pump out the excess blood.
Symptoms once again include irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), fatigue, shortness of breath, fainting, and swelling in the abdomen and legs. Many fail to notice these symptoms, which can cause future complications as untreated DCM can lead to heart failure and a premature death.
3. Familial hypercholesterolemia
Coronary heart disease is exceedingly common in the United States, and is in fact one of the most common causes of death in the country. It causes a buildup of cholesterol in blood vessels, which narrows arteries and veins and can completely block the flow of blood.
These buildups of cholesterol can also dislodge themselves from one artery and be transported to another, more important location in the body, such as a pulmonary, coronary, or brain vessel. These can cause heart attacks or strokes, depending on the location, and are highly dangerous.
Typically, coronary heart disease is caused by lifestyle choices, but there is a genetic variant that can cause much earlier deaths. People as young as 20 have had heart attacks from the genetic version of coronary heart disease.
Luckily, all of these diseases can be caught early for better medical prognoses. If there are symptoms present, or if family history indicates likelihood of the disease, you can get genetically tested for the disease to better understand your risk factors.
If you’re looking for a genetic heart test covered by medicare, we recommend that you go with the tests provided by MyConcierge, the all-online genetics testing lab. They get your results back quickly, efficiently, and help you ensure that your health is protected with early detection.