In the beginning of 2021, I went to The Christ Hospital for their $29 heart and vascular screening. Before I went to my appointment, I was asked about my family's heart history. To be honest, I didn't know much. I knew my grandma Fritsch, my dad's mom, had cancer. She passed away from it when I was 16. I knew both of my grandpas had diabetes and my dad had been diagnosed about three years ago, but that was kind of it. I texted my mom to ask her about our family medical history. Several texts and a phone call later, I learned that my four great-grandparents, my grandma and grandpa Fritsch, and two of my uncles all had some form of heart disease. It was pretty eye-opening and I was relieved when my heart and vascular screening came back to be pretty normal for my age. A friend of mine who works at The Christ Hospital read my blog and told me about their cardiovascular genetic counseling program. Since lots of heart conditions are hereditary, I thought I would speak with one of the genetic counselors about my family history. I spoke to Bryana Rivers, who specializes in cardiovascular genetics.
Who Would Benefit from Cardiovascular Genetic Counseling?
Bryana explained that someone who has a strong family history of heart disease would benefit from seeing a cardiovascular genetic counselor. She also said those who have been diagnosed or have a family member who's been diagnosed with a heart condition (like a sudden heart attack) or vascular disease at a young age, or if someone has unexplained high cholesterol.
According to Bryana some of these include:
- "Arrhythmia, a condition that causes your heart to beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly
- Cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body
- Vascular disease, such as an aortic aneurysm before the age of 50"
How Does Genetic Testing Work?
I was surprised to learn that genetic testing is super easy. It's done with either a salvia kit or blood draw. The results come back within 2-3 weeks and in most cases, is covered by insurance for those who meet the testing criteria. If your insurance doesn't cover the testing, the cost is typically around $250.
Bryana calls each patient to go over the test results in detail and answer any questions. If some kind of positive result is discovered, she told me that there are often associated guidelines and recommendations for managing that result and controlling or reducing your risk, including things like more frequent heart screenings, lifestyle changes or taking medication.
For now, I think I am OK to skip genetic counseling and testing, but if more conditions arise in my family, I am going to go back and see Bryana. If you're not sure if you would benefit from seeing a cardiovascular genetic counselor, Bryana suggested talking to your primary care doctor to help you decide. You don't need a doctor referral, but sometimes it is required for your insurance.
Learn more about cardiovascular genetic counseling at The Christ Hospital or call 513-585-3275 to schedule an appointment.