Study: Siblings at Higher Risk of Getting Heart Disease

The genetic makeup of brothers and sisters may indicate who is next in line to get heart disease, a new study finds.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that regardless of age or lifestyle, if a brother or sister suffers a heart attack or chest pain from blocked arteries, the chances of the brothers getting similar problems within 10 years increased by 20 percent.

Click here to read more

The study, which will be published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that sisters had a reduced risk of getting the disease at 7 percent, and younger siblings who develop heart disease first increase the chances of their brothers and sisters having similar problems.

In their research, scientists analyzed medical data from 1983 through 2006, which was part of a larger Sibling and Family Heart Study that monitored the health patterns of 800 siblings between the ages of 30 and 60.

Participants of the study came from nearly 350 families in the Baltimore area and had at least one sibling with coronary heart disease. Risk factors were assessed at the very beginning of the study with blood tests and physical exams.

Weight was another factor in determining the risks of heart disease among siblings. In these families, there was a history of heart disease, and siblings who were obese or overweight had a 60 percent increased risk of suffering a heart problem before age 60.

"The risk was greater than previously thought and makes clear the existence of a substantial, if uneven hereditary, link in heart disease among brothers and sisters," said Diane Becker, a professor and senior investigator of the study at Johns Hopkins University.

Becker said genetic blood tests eventually would be needed as an earlier warning for siblings to change their lifestyle or explore medications early on to prevent heart disease later in life.

"In the meantime," she said, "brothers and sisters in families with a history of heart disease really need to monitor their health more closely and in consultation with their physician and consider if drug therapy and better diet, exercise and lifestyle habits are needed."