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Parents can pass on heart problems - new study

Having a parent with a history of heart disease almost doubles a person's risk of also getting heart disease, regardless of ethnicity or country, according to an international study.

The study, which involved patients in 52 countries and appeared in the Journal Of The American College of Cardiology, also suggested that if your parents had a heart attack, changing your behaviour to more healthy patterns, while helpful, isn't guaranteed to protect you completely.

Previous studies have confirmed the relationship between a family history of heart disease and a person's own heart risk in certain populations, but the study also suggests the effect of family history is about the same in cultures across the world.

"This study reinforces the important role of family history as one of the very important risk factors, in addition to other known modifiable risk factors," said Christopher O'Donnell at the US National Institutes of Health, who was not involved in the study.

"It reinforces the need to integrate the family history into the day-to-day practice of prevention and therapy for heart disease."

The findings are from the Interheart study led by Salim Yusuf in Ontario, Canada, and involved 12,000 patients on every continent except Antarctica who were being treated for their first heart attack between 1999 and 2003.

About 18pc of patients who had suffered a heart attack also had parents with a history of heart attack, compared to 12pc of participants without heart disease.