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The Danish Heart Foundation paid for the study, which was published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Svati Shah, medical director of Duke University’s adult cardiovascular genetics clinic, noted that researchers saw a strong risk from family history even after taking into account traditional heart hazards such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“It’s very important to modify those,” she said, but “for certain individuals, there may be a genetic predisposition independent of those risk factors.”

One big weakness of the study: It had no information on smoking habits. McBride said smoking a pack a day leads to about the same risk as having two family members die early of heart disease.

Doctors and the American Heart Association offer these tips to anyone with a family history of heart disease:

_Learn all you can about the circumstances around a close family member’s death, such as the age when they developed cardiovascular disease and any risk factors such as smoking or obesity.

_Be aware of symptoms of heart disease or stroke, and see a doctor if you have any.

_Make sure other family members and your doctors are aware of your family history.

_Live right: Get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, lose weight, reduce blood sugar and stop smoking.

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Online:

Cardiology journal: bit.ly/OHYLNf

Heart Association on family risk: http://bit.ly/MALEy2

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Follow Marilynn Marchione’s coverage at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP