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Stroke Health Center

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Family Tree Provides Marker for Stroke Risk

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Woo says that in his study of strokes due to bleeding, he and his colleagues didn't adjust for these risk factors and additional research will be needed to determine whether there is a true genetic susceptibility or if these families simply have a greater preponderance of risk factors. "But even if we are really talking about risk factors such as diabetes or [high blood pressure], it is likely that there is a familial pattern that explains the higher incidence of the risk factors or, perhaps, a greater susceptibility to these factors," Woo says. In any case, he says, the take-home message is that families with a history of stroke should be offered counseling.

Monique Breteler, MD, associate professor of neurology at Erasmus University and a colleague of Voko, tells WebMD that they did control for risk factors, and after correcting for other risk factors "family history was an independent predictor of stroke."

Asked if persons with a family history of stroke should be counseled to take a more aggressive approach with risk factor management -- for example, by attempting to lower blood pressure to less than 120/80 -- Broderick says that good blood pressure control is important, but he isn't sure that there is evidence to support a "lower-is-better approach." Breteler says that her group has conducted studies that suggest "very low blood pressure is actually slightly more protective." She says that such an approach should be considered for persons with a family history of stroke.

Vital Information:

  • Two new studies show that having family members who have had a stroke increases the risk of stroke.
  • Patients should be aware of their family histories and make them known to their physician.
  • Counseling and prevention measures are recommended for patients who have more than one family member who's had a stroke.
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