Parents pass on stroke risk to offsprings

April 7, 2010 by  

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Here is another health problem that might be passed on from parent to offspring – stroke. Those whose parents had suffered a stroke before the age of 65 are three times more likely to suffer from the same disorder, according to the latest findings coming out of the Framingham Heart Study.

Researchers from Boston University, led by Dr Sudha Seshadri looked at 3,443 offsprings of the original Framingham participants. Like their parents, the offsprings were monitored and followed up for health outcomes. The results showed

  • The majority of stroke reported were ischemic.
  • Parental stroke was associated with increased risk of the same type of stroke in the offsprings.
  • Stroke risk in offsprings was not dependent on the gender of the parent who suffered from stroke.

The authors concluded that:

“Documented parental stroke by 65 years of age was associated with a 3-fold increase in risk of offspring stroke. This increased risk persisted after adjustment for conventional stroke risk factors. Thus, verified parental stroke may serve as a clinically useful risk marker of an individual’s propensity to stroke.”

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. It is the most common type of stroke. Ischemic stroke can happen in two ways. A thrombotic stroke occurs when a blood clot or thrombus forms in an artery in the brain, say due to atherosclerosis. In an embolic stroke, the blood clot or plaque on a blood vessel dislodges and travels to the narrower arteries of the brain where it cuts off the blood supply.

The researchers believe that doctors should conduct a thorough family history of their patients to assess stroke risk. For those who had stroke family history, the risk is increased three-fold.

“He or he should make it a point to check for and address modifiable risk factors such as a higher blood pressure, smoking, and low levels of physical activity.”

The results indicate that genetic factors play a major role in risk assessment for certain diseases.

Dr Ralph L Sacco (University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine commented on the study:

Although there are many environmental determinants of stroke such as smoking, physical inactivity, and diet, we also know that various factors are under genetic as well as environmental control, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity.”

Stroke is not the only cardiovascular problem that is strongly linked to family history. Previous analysis of the Framingham data also indicated that parental heart failure increased the risk of heart failure in offsprings by as much as 70%.

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