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Parent lifespan affects offspring's heart disease risk

13th March 2007

People whose parents live over 85 years have less chance of developing heart disease, scientists have discovered, through the Framington Heart Study (FHS).

Scientists assessed 1,697 offspring of the people who participated in the original FHS more than 50 years ago. All offspring were aged over 30, with an average age of 40.

The study took into account risk factors such as age, sex, education, cigarette smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol level and body mass index.

The research found that, on average, individuals who lost both parents before the age of 85 were most likely to develop heart disease and those whose parents lived beyond that age were least at risk.

Those whose parents died before the age of 85 generally demonstrated higher blood pressure and cholesterol.

Lead author of the study, Dr Dellara Terry, wrote in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine: "Better understanding of genetic variation in cardiovascular risk factors and longevity eventually may be helpful for disease prevention and treatment strategies."

FHS is now beginning the study of a third generation. It is hoped the findings from this generation will shed more light on the role of genetic factors in cardiovascular disease and will allow for the use of new diagnostic tests to identify those at high risk.