Inheriting Heart Attacks

Repairing Hearts with Stem Cells

Reported July 15, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Do you ever wonder what illnesses you might inherit from your parents? According to a new study, people are significantly more likely to inherit a predisposition to heart attack than to stroke.

“We found that the association between one of your parents having a heart attack and you having a heart attack was a lot stronger than the association between your parent having a stroke and you having a stroke. That suggests the susceptibility to stroke is less strongly inherited than the susceptibility to heart attack,” Peter M. Rothwell, M.D., Ph.D., senior author, and professor of clinical neurology at Oxford University in England, was quoted saying.
Even when the researchers analyzed patients’ siblings as well as parents, they found the same result: Family history proved a stronger risk predictor for heart attack than for stroke.

“We had found previously that much of the heritability of stroke is related to the genetics of high blood pressure, which doesn’t seem to be the case for heart attack,” Dr. Rothwell said. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, appears to be closely related with stroke rather than heart attack, which is why a family history of hypertension is related to a higher risk of stroke.

The study began in 2002 to study strokes, heart attacks and other acute vascular events. The researchers used data from 906 patients with acute heart ailments and 1,015 patients who suffered acute cerebral events. The team found that in the heart patients, 30 percent had one parent who’d had a heart attack, 21 percent had at least one sibling who had suffered a heart attack. Seven percent had two or more siblings who had heart attacks and 5 percent had two parents with heart attack.

Among the patients with a stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), which are often called mini-strokes or warning strokes, 21 percent had one parent who had a stroke, and 2 percent had two parents with stroke. Eight percent had at least one sibling with a stroke and 14 percent had at least two siblings with stroke.
The risk of a sibling developing acute heart problems was similar for those with heart attack or stroke. The risk for an acute cardiac event was six times greater if both parents had suffered a heart attack and one-and-a-half times greater if one parent had a heart attack. In contrast, the likelihood of stroke did not change significantly with parents’ stroke history.

Dr. Rothwell believes the findings hold two implications, “First, the way physicians predict the odds of a healthy person suffering a heart attack or stroke needs refining. Currently, most risk models lump a patient’s family history of stroke and heart attack together. We probably should model family history of stroke and heart attack separately in the future,” he said.

He noted, the study also indicates that using the same criteria to predict both medical events overestimates the risk of stroke. “The knowledge of genetic factors in stroke lags behind that in coronary artery disease. The discovery that genes play a significantly smaller role in stroke could mean that genetic studies of stroke may not be critical to the field,” Dr. Rothwell said.

SOURCE: Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, July 27, 2011