Stroke history of moms can predict risk for daughters
A mother's history of stroke can help predict her daughter's chances of not only having a stroke but of having a heart attack as well, new research shows.
The British researchers who worked on the study say what they found was a link, not a cause-and-effect relationship between a mother's stroke history and her daughter's. But they say it's possible that vascular disease -- specifically coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease -- can be inherited from mother to daughter.
The study is published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. It looked at more than 2,200 patients who had had either heart attacks, strokes, or other coronary syndromes.
Female heart patients were found to be more than twice as likely to have a mother who'd had a stroke than a father who did. The same link was not found in men with heart problems, however.
"Our study results point towards sex-specific heritability of vascular disease across different arterial territories — namely coronary and cerebral artery territories," said Dr. Amitava Banerjee, the study's lead author and Clinical Research Associate in the Stroke Prevention Research Unit at the University of Oxford in the U.K.
In a previous study of the same group (called the Oxford Vascular Study), researchers found that women faced a higher risk of heart attack before age 65 if their mothers have also had a heart attack at an early age. Other research has linked a mother's history of stroke to a daughter's stroke risk.
Banerjee said it's important to understand better any gender-specific risk factors, because although women have lower odds of suffering a heart attack, they are more likely than men to die from one.
"Moreover, traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes don't account for heart attack risk as clearly in women as in men, and tools to gauge risk in women are inadequate," Banerjee said. "There is clearly room for improvement in predicting heart attack risk in women."
Researchers gathered data throughout the study, rather than retrospectively, and the subjects were more representative of the general population because they weren't volunteers; they were recruited through general practitioners.
However, because the subjects are all from the United Kingdom, it's unclear whether the findings would apply to populations in other countries.
Banerjee noted that women whose mothers have had stroke -- particularly before the age of 65 -- "should have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and think about lifestyle factors, such as smoking, more than women without family history of stroke."