Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Heart disease - it's all relative

Heart Beat

Heart disease — it's all relative

Brothers and sisters often share traits like facial features, body shape, certain turns of phrase, or a fondness for peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Add heart trouble to the list. A report from the second-generation Framingham Offspring Study indicates that having a sibling with cardiovascular disease increases your chances of having it, too. The increase is on a par with having a parent with cardiovascular disease.

The study covered a lot of territory, defining cardiovascular disease as angina (chest pain), heart attack, needing a procedure to bypass or open a narrowed or blocked artery, stroke or transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), peripheral artery disease, or death due to a heart or circulation-related problem.

Among nearly 2,500 Framingham residents who were examined several times over an eight-year period, there were 6.5 cardiovascular events a year for every 1,000 people whose siblings did not have cardiovascular disease, compared with 15.3 events a year for every 1,000 people whose siblings did have cardiovascular disease. The elevated risk persisted even when the researchers statistically adjusted for risk factors that siblings might share. The results were published in the December 28, 2005, Journal of the American Medical Association.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »