Brothers and sisters of stroke victims are much more likely to suffer one as well, according to a new Swedish study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.
The research, conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, calculated the siblings of stroke victims are at least 60 percent more prone to having a stroke than the average person. If your sibling was 55 or younger at the time of the stroke, your risk is almost doubled, said lead researcher Dr. Erik Ingelsson.
"Health professionals should pay as much attention to a family history of stroke in siblings as in parents, and make patients aware that a genetic predisposition exists," Ingelsson said. "The gender of either sibling did not influence the stroke risk."
For the study, Swedish researchers tracked national health records from 1987 to 2007. They analyzed hospital discharge and death records in 30,735 people who had a sibling with a stroke and 152,391 adults of a similar age with no history of a sibling having a stroke.
They found that ischemic strokes were:
• 94 percent more likely in siblings of people who had a stroke at 55 or younger.
• 64 percent more likely in siblings of affected patients;
• 41 percent more likely in half-siblings of affected patients;
The increased risk may not solely be due to genetics, Ingelsson said. Similar lifestyle factors and habits within families also could play a role.
"If your sibling has had a stroke, it should motivate you to take more preventive actions and to pay more attention to lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise and blood pressure control," Ingelsson said.
Ischemic strokes, caused by blood vessel blockage that cuts off blood flow to part of the brain, are the most common type, striking almost 700,000 Americans annually.