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Early heart disease in parents linked to thicker artery walls in offspring

DALLAS, July 22 If your parents had coronary heart disease before age 60, the walls of your neck arteries are more likely to be thicker, putting you at higher risk of heart disease, too, researchers report in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Compared with people with no parental history of early-onset coronary heart disease (CHD), those with at least one parent who had a heart attack or other coronary event such as chest pain before age 60, had thicker walls in the large carotid arteries of the neck that lead to the brain, researchers found. Thicker carotid artery walls are associated with a greater degree of atherosclerotic plaque.

The study investigated the symptomless thickening of carotid arteries called subclinical atherosclerosis.

"Studies have shown that subclinical atherosclerosis, as assessed by increased thickness of the carotid artery wall, is directly predictive of an increased risk of heart attack or stroke," says principal investigator Christopher J. O'Donnell, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study.

The investigators studied a subset of men and women enrolled in the Framingham Offspring Study, a study of 5,124 offspring (and their spouses) of the original participants in the Framingham Heart Study. In this analysis, the researchers studied 1,662 men and women, average age 57, whose biological parents were both in the original Framingham study. Between 1995 and 1998, the offspring underwent carotid ultrasound imaging to measure their carotid walls. This noninvasive imaging technique detects vascular disease before symptoms are present.

O'Donnell notes that many previous studies investigating family history relied on the offspring's reports to determine if parents had heart disease. This introduces the possibility of recall bias, as people with a personal history of heart disease may be more cogniz
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Contact: Carole Bullock
carole.bullock@heart.org
214-706-1279
American Heart Association
22-Jul-2003


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