Here is what three of the top cardiovascular genetic counselors would like you to know about inherited cardiovascular disease:

Brittney Murray, MS, CGC
Cardiovascular Genetic Counselor at Johns Hopkins University
  • Sudden cardiac death can be the first symptom in families with hereditary cardiovascular conditions. So even if you are asymptomatic, if you have a family history of heart disease you should discuss your history with a genetic counselor.
  • Genetic counseling does not mean that you have to have genetic testing. A genetic counseling appointment can be used to explore your family history, assess your risk of an inherited cardiac condition, and learn of genetic testing options.
  • Cardiovascular genetic testing can be preventative. If we know you are at increased risk, we can monitor you closely and often identify risk factors at the first sign of disease. Family members who are identified earlier often have milder disease, and we may even prevent sudden death.
Amy Curry Sturm, MS, CGC, LGC
Director of Cardiovascular Genomic Counseling at Geisinger
  • More than 1 in every 100 people have a genetic predisposition to a hereditary type of heart disease.
  • Many types of hereditary heart disease are preventable with medication or other types of treatment.
  • Genetic testing can help determine who in your family inherited the predisposition to heart disease and who did not.
  • Heart disease at a young age, usually considered under age 50, is a red flag for a possible genetic cause.
  • Most genetic risk factors for heart disease do not “skip” generations, even if they have appeared to thus far. Genetic testing can help figure this out.
Matthew Thomas, ScM, CGC
Cardiovascular Genetic Counselor at UVA Health
  • A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is important for a long life, but some people develop heart disease purely based on a genetic change they have had since birth.
  • Early diagnosis is key. The earlier genetic heart disease is detected, the greater the chance of preventing serious complications, including sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Genetic testing is a blood or saliva test that is affordable and covered by many insurance plans.
  • Cardiovascular genetic testing has the potential to help not only a single patient but his or her entire family. Finding the genetic cause of one person’s heart disease makes it possible for children and other relatives to know whether or not they are at risk.
  • Cardiovascular genetic counselors work with patients concerned about their risk of developing a serious heart condition or passing their own heart condition to their children.