Genetic testing seeks out heart disease risk in Belfast thanks to Frost fund
A genetic testing service to help find those at risk of heart disease has been launched in Belfast.
It was established through a fund in memory of the late broadcaster Sir David Frost's son who died in 2015 of a related condition. An extra specialist nurse is to be employed.
Around 17,500 people in Northern Ireland are living with a faulty gene putting them at high risk of a heart attack at a young age or sudden death.
Dr Alison Muir, consultant cardiologist at Belfast City Hospital, said: "When someone dies from an inherited heart condition not only will their family be faced with the devastating loss of a loved one, they will also face the possibility that they or another family member could be affected with the condition.
"It is important they are referred to the service so we can carry out this cascade testing.
"It can be a frightening prospect so the care of a specialist inherited cardiac conditions nurse is vital to support them through the process."
Sir David's son Miles died from a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) aged just 31.
HCM causes the muscle wall of the heart to become thickened and can make it more difficult to pump blood around the body.
Miles is believed to have inherited the gene responsible for the condition from his father.
Although Sir David did not die of it, his post-mortem examination found the disease was present. Miles and his brothers, Wilf and George, were not tested at the time, his family said.
In response to Miles' death the Frost family and British Heart Foundation (BHF) set up a fund with the aim to raise £1.5 million to set up a national cascade testing service for family members of those who have died of or have been diagnosed with HCM.
Wilf Frost said: "It's wonderful to be in Belfast today to see the first-hand the work being funded in Miles' name and meet the patients who are benefiting from the service.
"When Dad died we were all just in complete shock, and when Miles died it was even worse. To lose someone so young, in the prime of his life, has been and still is hard to take. We miss him every day.
"We're determined to look forward and help prevent other families from experiencing the heartache we have which is why we're incredibly proud to roll out this new service.
"If we can prevent just one person suffering the same fate as Miles, then his death will not have been in vain."
Belfast was the first city in the UK to benefit from The Miles Frost Fund.
British Heart Foundation researchers were among the first to find the faulty genes underlying the deadly heart condition.