Learn more about heart condition

An Exmouth woman hopes people will go along to a talk which highlights inherited heart disease. Judith Atkinson has sufered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy since childhood.

A Withycombe pensioner suffering from an inherited heart disease is urging people to learn more about the condition at an information day held being on Saturday April 9.

Mum-of-two Judith Atkinson, 66, of Ryll Court Drive, has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - a condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken, affecting the heart’s rhythm and its ability to pump efficiently.

An information day is being held on April 9 at the Exeter Court Hotel, Kennford, 9.30am to 5pm, by the Cardiomyopathy Association - a charity that provides information and support to affected families.

The main speaker will be consultant cardiologist Dr Perry Elliott from the inherited heart disease team at the Heart Hospital in London.

Judith said: “I do find my condition limits my life quite a lot now, mainly because of chronic fatigue, but I am still able to enjoy life and do a small amount of gardening.

“I owe the Cardiomyopathy Association a great deal – without them, their website and message board I would know very little about the condition.

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“I have never talked to anyone else with a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy so I was delighted when I heard there was going to be an information day in the area and I am very much looking forward to attending.”

Judith was 57 when she first became aware of her illness. When she was a child she put her lack of energy down to fitness.

She said: “When I was 13 I remember walking up a mountain with the school and having great trouble.

“I could do most things but when I was physically tested it was a problem. I just thought I was being a wimp.”

Her condition was finally diagnosed when she was 60 - three years after she told doctors she was suffering from increasing health problems.

She said: “Breathlessness was occurring more and more frequently when climbing stairs or walking up hills and I was getting frequent dizzy spells.

“I saw a cardiologist and all the usual tests were done but they told me there was no sign that anything was wrong.”

Some three years later doctors noticed test results showed her ECG to be abnormal. Further tests showed she had cardiomyopathy.

“I was actually quite relieved for myself as I had begun to think I was imagining things,” said Judith. “Hearing the condition was usually inherited, my concern was for my children Julian and Alexandra who were 39 and 37 at that time.”

Judith’s children have been advised to have their hearts tested every five years in a bid to beat the inherited heart disease.

Judith believes her mother and her grandmother, who died at 54, may also have had the condition.

She said they both suffered heart problems throughout their lives.

A spokeswoman for the Cardiomyopathy Association said: “When Judith was first diagnosed the family were offered genetic testing. If the gene mutation causing the problem could have been identified in Judith, other members of the family could be checked to see if they were at risk of developing it.

“Judith said that at that stage she did not release how important it was so it was not done. She has asked since but been told money is now not available to do it.”