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Parents' heart attack or stroke raises risk in their middle-aged children

A study published in the May 12 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association provides the strongest evidence yet that cardiovascular disease in parents -- particularly at an early age -- is a major predictor of their children having a heart attack or stroke in middle age.

The study, by researchers from Northwestern University and the Framingham Heart Study, showed a doubling of cardiovascular risk in men and a 70 percent increased risk in women who had at least one parent with early onset cardiovascular disease (younger than 55 in the father and younger than 65 in the mother). These increased risks were found after accounting for other risk factors, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, cigarette smoking and diabetes.

When both parents had early-onset cardiovascular disease, children were at even greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Our results shed important light on the true magnitude of the association between offspring and parental cardiovascular disease, said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., first author on the study.

Lloyd-Jones is assistant professor of preventive medicine and assistant professor of medicine, division of cardiology, at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The parent group in the Framingham study has been followed up for over 50 years, and their children for more than 30 years. This provided the investigators with a unique opportunity to examine the true relationship of parental and offspring cardiovascular disease, confirmed by a physician panel of experts, without the potential bias of often-inaccurate self-reporting that has limited similar studies.

The researchers studied over 2,300 offspring participants, average age 44 years, in the Framingham Heart Study. Of these, 164 men and 79 women had a heart attack or stroke during follow-up.

In addition to the other study findings, the data showed that if children had very favorable personal risk factor levels, car
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Contact: Elizabeth Crown
e-crown@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
11-May-2004


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