However, "the reality is that all of the studies to date show that it just isn't happening," she said.
People with coronary heart disease often show up in emergency rooms or outpatient clinics, the researchers noted. It would be easy to flag them as members of a family requiring counseling. In fact, such a flagging system is used for cancers that are known to have an inheritable background, the report's authors noted.
It would be easy to ask a heart patient if any close relatives have such a condition, Pell said, and to give basic advice when that is the case: "Tell your brother to check out his risk factors and modify them if necessary."
In the United States, the Sibling Family Heart Study, which has followed more than 800 people for more than a decade, has seen "a doubling of the number of heart attacks, deaths and events that need to be corrected with bypass surgery or angioplasty," added Dr. Dhananjay Vaidya, assistant professor of internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and a member of that study team.
"One surprising thing we found was that people who had early heart attacks and had a family history of heart disease had very little knowledge of how they were at greater risk," Vaidya said.
After all other risk factors are taken into account, having a close family member with coronary heart disease increased a person's risk of a major cardiac event by 45 percent, he said.
There's more on the role of family in cardiac risk at the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Jill Pell, M.D., professor, epidemiology, University of Glasgow, Scotland; Dhananjay Vaidya, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, internal medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Ba
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