Early heart disease in parents linked to thicker artery walls in offspring

July 22, 2003

DALLAS, July 22 - If your parents had coronary heart disease before age 60, the walls of your neck arteries are more likely to be thicker, putting you at higher risk of heart disease, too, researchers report in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Compared with people with no parental history of early-onset coronary heart disease (CHD), those with at least one parent who had a heart attack or other coronary event such as chest pain before age 60, had thicker walls in the large carotid arteries of the neck that lead to the brain, researchers found. Thicker carotid artery walls are associated with a greater degree of atherosclerotic plaque.

The study investigated the symptomless thickening of carotid arteries called subclinical atherosclerosis.

"Studies have shown that subclinical atherosclerosis, as assessed by increased thickness of the carotid artery wall, is directly predictive of an increased risk of heart attack or stroke," says principal investigator Christopher J. O'Donnell, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study.

The investigators studied a subset of men and women enrolled in the Framingham Offspring Study, a study of 5,124 offspring (and their spouses) of the original participants in the Framingham Heart Study. In this analysis, the researchers studied 1,662 men and women, average age 57, whose biological parents were both in the original Framingham study. Between 1995 and 1998, the offspring underwent carotid ultrasound imaging to measure their carotid walls. This noninvasive imaging technique detects vascular disease before symptoms are present.

O'Donnell notes that many previous studies investigating family history relied on the offspring's reports to determine if parents had heart disease. This introduces the possibility of recall bias, as people with a personal history of heart disease may be more cognizant of their parents' cardiovascular history, he explains. In the Framingham studies, researchers collected information about heart disease in a prospective fashion, with both the parents and children undergoing examinations every few years - the parents since 1948, the offspring since 1971.

The study showed that at any age, the average vessel wall thickness of the internal carotid arteries was greater in people with at least one parent who developed CHD before age 60, compared with those without a parental history of early-onset CHD.

"The association holds true for both men and women and is significant even after adjustment for other strong risk factors for atherosclerosis such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol," adds Thomas J. Wang, M.D. a Framingham Heart Study researcher and the study's lead author.

In men, the average thickness, after adjustment, was 1.12 millimeters (mm) in the group in which at least one parent developed premature CHD, compared with 1.05 mm in the group in which neither parent had premature CHD. In women, the values were 0.92 mm for those with a parental history of premature CHD and 0.85 mm for those without it.

"The findings add to multiple studies recognizing that parental history of coronary heart disease is a risk factor for clinical disease and should be taken seriously," Wang says. "These data support guidelines saying that more rigorous preventive measures should be undertaken if an individual has a family history of heart disease."

"The fact that the association between artery wall thickness and premature parental coronary heart disease remains significant even after adjustment for traditional risk factors suggests that there are genetic causes to subclinical atherosclerosis that go beyond traditional risk factors," he says. "Our logical next step is to identify the mechanisms - including specific genes - underlying this connection between the familial clustering of early-onset heart disease and increased vessel wall thickness. The goal is to find new and effective ways to predict and prevent heart disease and stroke at an early age."
-end-
Other co-authors are Byung-Ho Nam, Ph.D.; Ralph B. D'Agostino, Ph.D.; Philip A. Wolf, M.D.; Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M.; Calum A. MacRae, M.B., Ch.B.; Peter W. Wilson, M.D.; and Joseph F. Polak, M.D., M.P.H.

Contact: For journal copies only,
please call: 214-706-1396

For other information, call:
Carole Bullock: 214-706-1279
Bridgette McNeill: 214-706-1135
Julie Del Barto (broadcast): 214-706-1330

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.