Inherited heart conditions

Family tree

Inherited conditions can be passed on through families. 

They can affect many parts of the body or cause many different conditions. They are sometimes called genetic heart conditions.

Inherited heart conditions can affect people of any age and can be life threatening. For many families, the first sign there’s a problem is when someone dies suddenly with no obvious cause or explanation.

These conditions are different from most congenital heart conditions, although some congenital conditions can also be inherited.

Find out about our research into inherited heart conditions.

What causes an inherited heart condition?

Our genes make each of us unique. They affect how we look and how our bodies work. We inherit them from our parents. Inherited heart conditions are caused by a fault (or mutation) in one of more of our genes. If one of your parents has a faulty gene, there’s a 50:50 chance you could inherit it. If you do, then there’s also a 50:50 chance you could pass it on to each of your children.

It’s possible to have a faulty gene that can lead to a heart condition, yet never develop any signs of symptoms of the condition itself. You can still pass the gene on and there’s no way of knowing how it may affect your child, even if they do inherit the same faulty gene. Some people with an inherited heart condition do not develop symptoms, yet their child could inherit the same faulty gene and develop symptoms.

What inherited heart conditions are there?

The most common inherited heart conditions are:

Inherited heart rhythm disturbances, for example:

Cardiomyopathies, for example:

Very high cholesterol levels:

Who can I speak to about inherited heart conditions?

Call our Genetic Information Service (GIS) helpline on 0300 456 8383 for more information and support. The helplines are available Mon-Fri, from 09:00 – 17:00 (similar cost to 01 or 02 numbers).

Our GIS has qualified and specially-trained cardiac nurses who can provide you with information about your inherited condition and how it may affect your family.

They can help you get an assessment at a specialist clinic that deals with inherited heart conditions.

If you’re with someone when they collapse suddenly, you should call 999 immediately. If they stop breathing normally they may be in cardiac arrest. Performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until the ambulance or medical help arrives could help to save their life. If you are untrained in CPR, the 999 operator will be able to talk you through the process.

Want to know more?

We've produced the following booklets for you to download or order, on inherited heart conditions to help you to understand your condition and how it may affect your family: