Having a Sibling with Heart Disease Raises Personal Risk
Your personal risk of having a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease might be raised by as much as 45 percent if you are middle-aged and have a brother or sister who has experienced such an event.
Schmalfeldt: You may be living a heart-healthy lifestyle, doing everything you think you need to do to avoid cardiovascular disease. But according to a report from the Framingham Heart Study, conducted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, if you have a sibling with cardiovascular disease, you might need to do more! According to the report, your personal risk of having a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease might be raised by as much as 45 percent if you are middle-aged and have a brother or sister who has experienced such an event. Dr. Christopher O'Donnell is associate director of NHLBI's Framingham Heart Study, and is the study's senior author.
O'Donnell: Individuals who have a sibling who has cardiovascular disease have increased risk even if their own risk factors are not overtly elevated, such as clear hypertension or clearly high cholesterol. But even at intermediate levels of those risk factors, the risk is increased with a sibling who has cardiovascular disease. So it may be that many folks out there actually believe that they are living a heart-healthy lifestyle, but could have somewhat more aggressive lifestyle modification if they knew that their sibling had a cardiovascular disease event. So they should go consult with their physician to see what else could be done in terms of lowering blood pressure, lipids, keeping blood sugar under control, maintaining a healthy weight and getting exercise, and — of course — quitting smoking.
Schmalfeldt: In 2004, the Framingham Heart Study research team demonstrated that having a parent with a cardiovascular disease history doubles personal risk of the disease. Dr. O'Donnell said there is more yet to be learned in this area.
O'Donnell: There is also an unknown in terms of "what are the genetics" that lead to this increased risk from having a sibling or a parent with heart disease. And that is the focus of much future research at both the Framingham Heart Study and many other studies by NHLBI and the National Institutes of Health.
Schmalfeldt: For more information, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Christopher O'Donnell
Topic: Heart Disease