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Stroke History of Moms Predicts Risk for Daughters

Study Suggests Daughters at Risk for Heart Attack and Stroke

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Feb. 1, 2011 -- The daughters of women who suffer strokes may be at increased risk of having a heart attack and also at increased risk of stroke, new research indicates.

British researchers say it appears that inheriting vascular disease, specifically coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease, may be sex specific.

Female heart patients were found in a study of 2,200 people to be more likely to have mothers who had suffered a stroke than fathers who had.

Researchers had shown in a previous study that women face a higher risk of having a heart attack before age 65 if their mothers also had suffered a heart attack at a relatively early age. And previous research also has found that a mother's history of stroke was linked to a higher risk of stroke for their daughters.

Mothers' Cardiovascular History

The researchers say their study is the first to show that daughters of mothers who had strokes may be at higher risk of suffering both strokes and heart attacks.

This is a significant finding, suggests study researcher, Amitava Banerjee, MRCP, MPH, of the University of Oxford, because "existing tools to predict heart attack risk ignore family history or include it simply as a yes or no question, without accounting for relevant details such as age, sex, and type of disease in patients, compared with their relatives."

The study is important because women, though less likely to suffer heart attacks than men, are more likely to die of one, Banerjee says. "Moreover, traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes don't account for heart attack risk as clearly as women as in men, and tools to gauge risk in women are inadequate," Banerjee says.

Predicting Heart Risk

She concludes that it's clear that methods aimed at predicting heart disease risk in women could be improved. Among other key findings of the study:

  • Around 24% of participants with angina and heart attack and a similar percentage of stroke patients in the study had at least one first-degree relative who had a history of stroke. This suggests that stroke history in relatives, including siblings as well as parents, is as important to a person's risk of angina or heart attack as it is to stroke risk.
  • Women who had heart attacks or unstable angina were more likely to have had any female relative than any male first-degree relatives with stroke history.
  • Stroke history of parents did not help predict where patients' heart disease might show up on coronary angiography, or whether heart disease was present in multiple blood vessels.

Apparently, family history might influence a more general tendency toward clot production rather than pinpointing the likely locations of plaques.

The study suggests that doctors should discuss family histories of cardiovascular events more thoroughly with patients, especially females.

Thorough questioning may "contribute" to improved risk prediction in female patients, the study suggests.

The study is published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, a journal of the American Heart Association.

SOURCES: News release, American Heart Association.Banerjee, A. Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, February 2011.

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