News | January 31, 2011

Study Confirms Parental History of Heart Attack is a Risk Factor Worldwide

January 31, 2011 – Parental history of heart disease nearly doubles a person’s risk in all regions of the world, even after considering all other known risk factors of heart disease. The results come from a study published in the Feb. 1, 2011, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In other words, many unknown genetic and environmental factors running in families remain to be discovered and play an important part in determining one’s likelihood of developing heart disease.

The INTERHEART Study, a multinational, case-control study, examined whether the relationship between parental history of myocardial infarction (MI) – or heart attack – and MI risk is independent of known cardiovascular risks and a small number of genetic variants mostly related to risk factors.

“This study finds that parental history of myocardial infarction, a very easy-to-measure risk factor, approximately doubles your risk of future heart attack, regardless of all other risk factors, including ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic position,” said Clara Chow, MBBS, Ph.D., head cardiac program, The George Institute. Chow is lead author of the study. “If both parents have a history of heart disease, and especially if it occurred at a young age, then the risk increases.”

Chow and her team concluded that parental history is an important, consistent and global determinant of heart disease. Both maternal and paternal histories are associated with an increased risk, and the younger the incidence in the parent, the higher the risk. After making adjustments for a set of nine risk factors – both biological and behavioral (i.e., abnormal lipids, smoking, hypertension, diet, etc.) – it was determined that the overall association of parental history is an important indicator.

“While other studies have shown the relationship between parental history and risk, they have not established its independence from the extensive list of other potential explanatory factors as measured by the INTERHEART Study and not established it in other world regions or ethnic groups,” Chow said.

Because of this, and its very wide applicability, Chow believes that this will put to rest a number of criticisms that parental history is not that important if other risk factors are well-measured and of uncertain significance in different population groups.

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