FamilialHeart Disease


Familial heart disease is heart disease that runs in your family. Three of the most common types of inherited heart disease are:

  • Bicuspid aortic valve disease. This occurs when one of your heart valves has two edges or “leaflets” instead of three. 
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This causes your heart muscle fibers to enlarge and your heart walls to thicken. It affects people of all ages and can cause cardiac arrest (when the heart suddenly stops beating) in young people, especially young athletes. 
  • Marfan syndrome. This damages the connective tissues in your heart and blood vessels and makes you more prone to aneurysms (weak spots in your blood vessels that bulge or burst). People with Marfan syndrome are often tall and thin with long limbs and other distinctive physical features.


Symptoms vary based on the type of familial heart disease, but can include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue or exercise intolerance
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath


To diagnose a familial heart disease, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms. He or she may also order diagnostic tests such as:  

Services & Treatment

If you’re diagnosed with a familial heart disease, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss, mild exercise or avoiding smoking, alcohol, caffeine and high-fat foods. Medication and surgery to repair or replace damaged valves, vessels and other parts of your heart are other treatment options.

We also recommend genetic testing for people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or Marfan syndrome. If we’re able to isolate a gene mutation, then we’ll recommend that your immediate family members also get tested and have yearly screenings. This way we can help prevent potential problems from progressing.

You can count on personalized, compassionate care from experts in treating familial heart disease at the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center and Center for Marfan & Aortic Disorders.

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