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Study Finds Connection in Heart Disease Risk Between Siblings

A new study suggests siblings can share a high risk factor of heart disease. VOA's Amy Katz has more.

Studies have found health problems, including heart disease and diabetes, can be hereditary. But a new study by Dr. Joanne Murabito and her colleagues at the Framingham Heart Study, an organization in Massachusetts, has found that people with a sibling who has heart disease are at a higher risk factor for the same illness.

"Having a sibling with cardiovascular disease increases your risk for a heart attack by as much as 45 percent compared to people without a sibling with cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Murabito.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed 2,500 heart-healthy people who had siblings with heart disease.

"We followed them for eight years,” said the doctor, “looking for the occurrence of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack, stroke or blockage in the arteries in their legs."

The study also found there is a higher risk factor in sibling cardiovascular disease than parental cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Murabito believes the risk factor may be explained by a combination of genetics and shared childhood eating and exercise habits.

These three sisters are heart-healthy, but their brother died of a heart attack.

"We don't really have dinner-table discussions about our heath," said one sister.

But Dr. Murabito suggests that siblings should share information about their heart health with each other and their doctors.