Genetics is to blame for stroke

New research shows, even after accounting for well known risk factors, a person's chance of having a heart attack or stroke seems to depend on whether their parents experienced such problems. Although several reports have linked parental cardiovascular disease (CVD) with CVD in their children, it was unclear if the relationship held true after considering other risk factors like smoking, according to the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To investigate, Dr. Christopher J. O'Donnell, from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues analyzed data from 2302 subjects who enrolled in the Framingham Offspring Study. When the study began, the participants were an average of 44 years and all were free from CVD.

During 8 years of follow-up, 164 men and 79 women experienced a heart attack or stroke. Having at least one parent with CVD raised the risk of such events by up to twofold. The highest risks were seen when the parent's CVD occurred at a relatively young age: younger than 55 years for the father and younger than 65 years for the mother, reports

According to someone with at least one parent who had cardiovascular disease relatively early -- before age 55 in men and 65 in women -- was 2.6 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than offspring whose parents did not have early disease, the researchers found.

The finding adds information to support the current recommendation that doctors ask about family history of heart attack and stroke when assessing a person's risk, O'Donnell said.

"While questions about family history are part of the standard, the truth is that there has been limited information about how to use that parental data," he said. "This is the first large study with actual data, where we knew exactly what happened to parents and offspring."

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