Genetic Registry Helps Predict Heart-attack Risks

30,000 Canadians have unexplained heart attacks each year, most of which are fatal

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Currently, about 30,000 Canadians have unexplained heart attacks each year and unfortunately, if they have that heart attack outside of a hospital, there is only a 5% chance of survival.

In order to shed some light on what is causing these unexplained heart attacks, Dr. Andrew Krahn, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, started a registry to collect data from individuals who had unexpected heart attacks and their families. “These are not people who have something where there is a gene in their family that causes half the people to drop dead. These are the people where there’s a, if you like, perfect storm of a bunch of little genes that are contributing”.

To date, Dr. Krahn and his team have been able to detect genetic markers for rare conditions in about half of the individuals in the registry and have been able to use this information to protect these individuals and their families from sudden death.

The goal is to eventually develop software that will provide you with your risk factor for sudden heart attack based on your genetics, lifestyle, and environmental exposures. By identifying people with high risk factors early, we can proactively start them on heart medication or encourage their families to have a defibrillator in their home.

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Dr. Krahn is a Professor in the Division of Cardiology at the University of British Columbia. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba. His clinical expertise is in management of cardiac arrhythmias. Current research interests include investigation of genetic causes of arrhythmias, causes of loss of consciousness and implantable arrhythmia device monitoring.

Dr. Krahn has research funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Institute of Health Research. His research has been published in scientific journals such as Circulation, JAMA, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, The New England Journal of Medicine, Heart Rhythm, Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, European Heart Journal, American Journal of Medicine, American Heart Journal, American Journal of Cardiology, Canadian Journal of Cardiology and the Canadian Medical Association Journal. He has published 305 papers and 290 abstracts in peer-reviewed journals. He is an Associate Editor for Heart Rhythm, and sits on the Editorial Board of Heart Rhythm, the Canadian Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology.

Dr. Krahn is affiliated with several professional associations including the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the Heart Rhythm Society. He is a member of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Council. He is the Sauder Family Chair and UBC Chief of Cardiology, and the Paul Brunes Chair in Heart Rhythm Disorders. His major clinical interest is in the inherited heart rhythm clinic and arrhythmia device management.