Your DNA Plays Greater Role in Heart Attack

Heart attacks more likely to be inherited than stroke

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A predisposition for heart attack risk is defined by genetics. Doesn't that mean the risks for heart diseases are the same? In fact, one particular risk seems to lead the way.

Genes are more likely to influence a predisposition to heart attack than to stroke. The new findings, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, suggest the need for separate risk assessments for the two heart conditions.

"Ask about your family history of heart disease."

Dr. Peter M. Rothwell, senior study author and a professor of clinical neurology at Oxford University in England, said that the research revealed that the association between a person having a heart attack after a parent had a heart attack was much stronger than the same scenario involving a stroke. He said the finding suggested that susceptibility to stroke is less strongly inherited than for a heart attack.

A second analysis that looked at patients' siblings in addition to their parents had the same finding that family history made for a stronger risk predictor in heart disease than for stroke.

Previously Dr. Rothwell and his research team had found that much of the heritability of stroke is related to the genetics of high blood pressure, which is not the case with heart attack. However, this may be why a family history of hypertension is related to a higher risk of stroke.

Study patients were enrolled in the ongoing Oxford Vascular Study, which began in 2002 to study strokes, heart attacks and other vascular events in a part of Oxfordshire County where more than 91,000 people are served by one hospital.

Investigators collected data from 906 patients, of which 604 were men, with acute heart ailments and 1,015 patients, of which 484 were men, with acute cerebral events.

Of the heart patients, 30 percent had a parent who had suffered a heart attack while 21 percent had a sibling who did. In about 5 percent, both parents had suffered a heart attack. Among stroke patients, 21 percent had a parent who had experienced a stroke, while 8 percent had a sibling who had a stroke, and 2 percent reported that both parents had strokes.

The risk for acute cardiac events 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. The likelihood of stroke did not change significantly with a family history of it.

Dr. Rothwell said the study results indicate that the way doctors predict odds of a heart attack or stroke need refining, suggesting that the two be separated when evaluating the risks for each.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 26, 2011
Last Updated:
July 28, 2011