Obesity adds risk of cardiovascular disease in siblings in families with a history of heart problems

archers monitored risk factors, both traditional and BMI, for nine years in 827 siblings under age 60 from families in the Baltimore region. Study participants were generally healthy at the beginning of the study, with no early signs of heart disease, but all had at least one major risk factor. Every participant also had at least one sibling with premature coronary heart disease (such as blocked arteries) that had required hospitalization, so family history was a risk factor. Half of participants were women, 20 percent were black Americans and the rest were predominantly white. Blood tests and physical exams were conducted at the beginning and end of the study to assess changes in each individual's risk factors.

Results showed that 13.3 percent of siblings had a premature incident of heart disease within a nine-year period. Of these, obese and overweight siblings had similarly higher incident rates of 15.3 percent and 16 percent, respectively, double the rate in siblings with a normal weight. According to Becker, this translates into a 4 percent increase in risk of coronary heart disease for every one-unit increase in BMI.

Indeed, obesity was found to have the greatest impact on risk of heart disease in siblings who had multiple risk factors that gave them a high FRS score. In this group with a high FRS score, obese siblings had twice the amount of coronary heart disease as those who were overweight - 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively - and double the rate in siblings with normal-weight siblings. When compared to siblings with low FRS scores and normal weight, obese siblings with high FRS scores had 15 times more premature heart disease.

When genetic traits were analyzed, the Hopkins team found that 50 percent of BMI in whites was hereditary, while in blacks, the hereditary factor was even less, at 30 percent. This means that lifestyle and environmental factors account for the rest, the researchers say, suggesting that much of

Contact: David March
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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