Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries. It is widely recognized that a person's genetic makeup, reflected by his or her family history, may influence the risk of various forms of cardiovascular disease. Although classic mendelian patterns of inheritance have been observed for certain less common cardiovascular disorders, more common diseases, such as atherosclerotic disease and hypertension, have atypical patterns of inheritance and a multifactorial pathogenesis. Impressive progress has been made in identifying the precise molecular causes of many cardiovascular disorders that are relatively rare and involve mutations of a single gene, such as Marfan's syndrome.
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