Genes play greater role in heart attacks than stroke, researchers say

July 26, 2011

People are significantly more likely to inherit a predisposition to heart attack than to stroke, according to research reported in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, an American Heart Association journal.

The study results have implications for better understanding the genetics of stroke and suggest the need for separate risk assessment models for the two conditions.

"We found that the association between one of your parents having a heart attack and you having a heart attack was a lot stronger than the association between your parent having a stroke and you having a stroke," said senior author Peter M. Rothwell, M.D., Ph.D., professor of clinical neurology at Oxford University in England. "That suggests the susceptibility to stroke is less strongly inherited than the susceptibility to heart attack."

A second analysis, which included patients' siblings as well as parents, yielded the same result: Family history proved a stronger risk predictor for heart attack than for stroke.

Rothwell and his colleagues conducted the study to clarify and confirm evidence suggesting a great difference in genetic predisposition between heart attacks and strokes. "We had found previously that much of the heritability of stroke is related to the genetics of high blood pressure, which doesn't seem to be the case for heart attack," Rothwell said. Hypertension appears to be closely related with stroke rather than heart attack, which is why a family history of hypertension is related to a higher risk of stroke.

In the report published today, all patients were enrolled in the ongoing Oxford Vascular Study.

OXVASC, as the study is known, that began in 2002 to study strokes, heart attacks and other acute vascular events in a part of Oxfordshire County where more than 91,000 people are served by one hospital. Previous analyses in the same population conducted by lead author, Amitava Banerjee MPH PhD, have shown the particular importance of family history in mother-daughter transmission in both heart attacks and stroke. "Family history of heart attacks and family history of strokes have rarely been studied in the same population," Banerjee said.

The researchers used data from 906 patients (604 men) with acute heart ailments and 1,015 patients (484 men) who suffered acute cerebral events. Among the study's findings: Eight percent had at least one sibling with a stroke and 14 percent had at least two siblings with stroke. The findings, if confirmed by additional studies, hold two significant implications, Rothwell said.

"First, the way physicians predict the odds of a healthy person suffering a heart attack or stroke needs refining," he said. "Currently, most risk models lump a patient's family history of stroke and heart attack together. We probably should model family history of stroke and heart attack separately in the future."

The new data also indicated that using the same criteria to predict both medical events overestimate the risk of stroke, he added. "The knowledge of genetic factors in stroke lags behind that in coronary artery disease," Rothwell said. The discovery that genes play a significantly smaller role in stroke could mean that genetic studies of stroke may not be critical to the field, he added.
-end-
Co-authors are Amitava Banerjee, MPH Ph.D.; Louise E. Silver, R.G.N., Ph.D.; Carl Heneghan, Ph.D.; Sarah J. V. Welch, R.G.N. MA; Ziyah Mehta, Ph.D.; and Adrian P. Banning, M.D. Author disclosures and funding are on the manuscript.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.americanheart.org/corporatefunding.

Additional resources:
More information about heart attacks can be found at www.heart.org/heartattack
Downloadable stock footage, animation and our image gallery are located at www.heart.org/news under Multimedia.

American Heart Association

Related Heart Attack Articles from Brightsurf:

Top Science Tip Sheet on heart failure, heart muscle cells, heart attack and atrial fibrillation results
Newly discovered pathway may have potential for treating heart failure - New research model helps predict heart muscle cells' impact on heart function after injury - New mass spectrometry approach generates libraries of glycans in human heart tissue - Understanding heart damage after heart attack and treatment may provide clues for prevention - Understanding atrial fibrillation's effects on heart cells may help find treatments - New research may lead to therapy for heart failure caused by ICI cancer medication

Molecular imaging identifies link between heart and kidney inflammation after heart attack
Whole body positron emission tomography (PET) has, for the first time, illustrated the existence of inter-organ communication between the heart and kidneys via the immune system following acute myocardial infarction.

Muscle protein abundant in the heart plays key role in blood clotting during heart attack
A prevalent heart protein known as cardiac myosin, which is released into the body when a person suffers a heart attack, can cause blood to thicken or clot--worsening damage to heart tissue, a new study shows.

New target identified for repairing the heart after heart attack
An immune cell is shown for the first time to be involved in creating the scar that repairs the heart after damage.

Heart cells respond to heart attack and increase the chance of survival
The heart of humans and mice does not completely recover after a heart attack.

A simple method to improve heart-attack repair using stem cell-derived heart muscle cells
The heart cannot regenerate muscle after a heart attack, and this can lead to lethal heart failure.

Mount Sinai discovers placental stem cells that can regenerate heart after heart attack
Study identifies new stem cell type that can significantly improve cardiac function.

Fixing a broken heart: Exploring new ways to heal damage after a heart attack
The days immediately following a heart attack are critical for survivors' longevity and long-term healing of tissue.

Heart patch could limit muscle damage in heart attack aftermath
Guided by computer simulations, an international team of researchers has developed an adhesive patch that can provide support for damaged heart tissue, potentially reducing the stretching of heart muscle that's common after a heart attack.

How the heart sends an SOS signal to bone marrow cells after a heart attack
Exosomes are key to the SOS signal that the heart muscle sends out after a heart attack.

Read More: Heart Attack News and Heart Attack 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.