15,000 have genetic fault which creates heart attack risk - charity
Up to 15,000 people in Northern Ireland have a genetic fault putting them at risk of a heart attack, a charity said.
The faulty gene can create high cholesterol and other conditions leading to a cardiac arrest, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in Northern Ireland said.
Tyrone GAA captain Cormac McAnallen and promising young Armagh rugby player John McCall were among those who died from sudden cardiac death, a tragedy which has struck every county in Ireland, the campaigning Cormac Trust organisation established in Mr McAnallen's memory said.
Jayne Murray, head of BHF in Northern Ireland, said: "We urgently need to accelerate research into inherited heart conditions that take the lives of hundreds of young people in the UK every year, often without warning.
"Our research has helped make great progress in identifying some of the gene defects that cause these heart conditions, and as a result genetic testing is now available for many people with a family history of an inherited heart disease.
"We urgently need people's support to enable us to fund more research into these gene defects so that patients at risk can be identified before they have a serious cardiac event and so that we can work towards developing treatments to neutralise the effects of the faulty gene."
Four people are born every week with the genetic flaw, or up to one in 120 people, research from the organisation said.
Despite advances in research into inherited heart conditions, many defects still remain undiscovered.
Kerry Woods was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, an inherited condition that can cause heart rhythm disturbances, two years ago, just a year after her own mother was diagnosed.
After testing the Antrim woman's four children - Andrew, 16, Aaron, 14, 10-year-old Amber-Jo, and Aimee, nine - were also diagnosed with the same condition.
Ms Woods said: "It does have an impact on our daily lives. The kids can't do competitive sports or go swimming.
"It can even have an impact on medication we might take but we do get on with life. I hope that by telling our story, more support will be given to finding new treatments for conditions like Long QT and that more people are aware of the condition."
Through public donations the British Heart Foundation has been funding a team at University of Nottingham whose research could lead to the development of new treatments to manage the condition and reduce the risk of sudden death.