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Family History Better Predictor of Heart Attack Than Stroke

Family genetics may play more of a role in your risk of a heart attack than strokes. 

New research conducted at the University of Birmingham in England suggests that a family history of heart attack appears to be a stronger risk factor for heart attack than a family history of stroke is for stroke. 

Nearly 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year and about 600,000 will experience their first stroke according to a report from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health-related data.  “Both stroke and heart attack are leading health conditions that can financially wipe out a family,” explains Jesse Slome, the association’s executive duirector. 

Researchers noted that their findings would be helpful to doctors as a means of predicting a patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke.   The scientists collected data on nearly 1,000 people who had heart attacks and 1,015 stroke survivors. 

Among those with heart disease, 30 percent had a parent with a heart attack and 21 percent had a sibling with a heart attack, the researchers found.  Seven percent had two or more siblings who suffered heart attacks, and 5 percent reported both parents had had heart attacks. 

On the other hand, 21 percent of those who suffered a stroke or transient ischemic attack, considered a minor stroke, had at least one parent with a stroke, and 8 percent had a brother or sister with a stroke. 

Two percent of the stroke survivors had two parents with strokes, while 14 percent had at least two siblings with a stroke, the researchers found.  When two parents had suffered a heart attack, the risk of heart attack increased six times.  If one parent suffered a heart attack, the risk was 1.5 times greater for their offspring.

Stroke risk did not change substantially based on parental stroke history, the authors said. 

“Individuals in their 40s and 50s should recognize that a family history of heart disease can be important information about future risk of having a heart attack,” Slome explains. “With greater risk comes a greater need to plan.”

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