THE amount of people in the West Midlands living with a faulty gene putting them at risk of developing heart disease or dying young could be much higher than previously thought, a charity has warned.

Although previous estimates suggested up to 28,000 people in the region could suffer from the condition, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has now said this could be as many as 51,000.

Every year in the UK about 600 apparently healthy people aged 35 or younger die of sudden, unexpected heart attacks, and someone living with an inherited heart condition has a 50 per cent chance of passing it on to their children.

Speaking as the charity launched its Fight For Every Heart campaign, calling for more research into the problem, the BHF’s medical director Professor Peter Weissberg said more work was urgently needed.

“Over recent years researchers have made great strides in identifying some of the genes that cause inherited heart conditions,” he said.

“A genetic test in a child of an affected parent can save their life.

“More research is now urgently needed to identify all the genes responsible for these deadly disorders.

“Pinpointing genes which cause inherited heart conditions will allow affected children to be protected and, in the long term, will lead to new treatments to overcome the effects of the faulty gene.”