Is Cardiovascular Genetic Counseling Right For You?

Although you can take steps to lower your risk for cardiovascular conditions (problems involving the heart and blood vessels), there are some factors you can’t control. That’s because many of these conditions are inherited or related to genetics. But here’s the good news: Cardiovascular genetic counseling can help determine which disorders you may be at higher risk for and help you prevent or minimize potential health problems.

Wondering what genetic counseling is and how it can help? We’ll answer common questions here. View slideshow.

What is cardiovascular genetic counseling?

This type of genetic counseling can help determine your risk for cardiovascular disorders so you can take steps to prevent or minimize potential health problems. By completing a comprehensive analysis of your personal and family history, we can determine your risk for cardiovascular disease.

What is a genetic counselor?

A certified genetic counselor will guide you through the process and help you learn if genetic testing is appropriate for you and what the results mean for you and your family. Your genetic counselor will also discuss ways you can manage your cardiovascular disease risk and provide resources for more information and support.

What are some examples of inherited heart conditions?

Inherited heart conditions include cardiomyopathy (diseases of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders), aortopathy (aortic aneurysms), familial hypercholesterolemia (lipid disorders) and congenital heart defects.

How common are inherited heart conditions?

Many types of heart disorders can be inherited. In the United States, two of the most common disorders include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, which may affect as many as 1 in 200 people; and familial hypercholesterolemia, which affects 1 in 250 people.

Who should consider evaluation for an inherited heart condition?

You should consider cardiovascular genetic testing if:

  • You or a relative with a heart condition were diagnosed at an early age.
  • You have multiple family members with the same or similar types of heart disease. This could be multiple individuals on the same side of the family who have had a heart attack, arrhythmia, heart failure or a heart transplant.
  • You or your family members have experienced unexplained cardiac arrest or sudden death, including SIDS.

What happens if I have a higher genetic risk for heart disease?

Knowing your genetic risk for cardiac disorders can help you, your family and your health care providers be proactive about lowering that risk. Your genetic counselor will work with you to develop a personalized care plan. This might include making lifestyle changes to prevent triggering cardiac events or exploring treatment options such as an implantable cardiac defibrillator, a pacemaker, enzyme replacement therapy, early surgical intervention or heart transplantation.

Since at-risk family members are also identified during genetic testing, they too can take steps to protect their health with strategies like screening and early intervention.

How do I get started with genetic counseling?

The Genetics and Risk Assessment Program at Main Line Health provides appropriate, accurate and compassionate genetic counseling services for people concerned about cardiovascular health due to their personal or family history. For more information about genetic counseling or to schedule an appointment, call 484.565.GENE (4363).

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