HONOLULU, April 24 Being the firstborn child in a family may make a person more likely to develop coronary disease, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Associations Asia Pacific Scientific Forum.
The study authors speculate that firstborns may have a more coronary-prone, type-A - personality, marked by increased competitiveness, although the study did not look at that factor directly.
After many years of practice, we noticed a prevalence of firstborns among people affected by coronary heart disease (CHD). Primogeniture, a term for the eldest child, has been considered a possible determinant of various diseases but, to the best of our knowledge, its association with CHD has never been investigated, says Maurizio Ferratini, M.D., head of the cardiovascular rehabilitation unit of Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi in Milan, Italy.
Biological factors, social and environmental variables and educational opportunities are different in firstborns than those of higher birth order subjects. This may influence the incidence of acute and chronic diseases in adulthood. Consequently, we decided to explore this relationship, he adds.
Researchers conducted a prospective study of 348 people with CHD who had been admitted to the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Unit of Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi in Milan. They also looked for other risk factors linked to being firstborn. They recorded birth order, age, gender, family history of CHD and the presence of other major risk factors.
Researchers found that 46.7 percent of the CHD patients were firstborn, almost double the prevalence of 29.3 percent in the reference population.
Primogeniture was unrelated to age, gender and all but one of the major risk factors considered. There were no significant differences between firstborns and their sisters and brothers in terms of family history of CHD, hypertension, dyslipidemia or diabetes. But cigarette smoking was lower among the firstborn
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association