When doctors step into their patients' shoes, their treatment decisions don't always line up with the advice they give in their clinics, a US survey says.

Women whose mothers have suffered strokes are at a far higher risk of having a heart attack, research shows.

They are also significantly more likely to have a stroke themselves.

Researchers believe that women may be more at risk of inherited forms of heart disease whereas in men it tends to be triggered by lifestyle factors such as diet, drinking and smoking.

The Oxford University scientists suggest that GPs should ask women specific questions about their family history of heart disease when trying to establish whether they are at risk of a stroke or heart attack Ð including which relatives were affected and how old they were. They warn that it may be a more important predictor of future heart problems than obesity, blood pressure, heavy drinking or smoking.

The researchers looked at more than 2,200 female patients who had suffered a stroke, heart attack or angina.

They found that a far higher proportion of the women’s mothers had suffered a stroke compared to their fathers.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, also found that the women with heart problems were more likely to have a sister who had suffered a stroke than a brother. In an earlier study on the same group of women, researchers found that they faced a higher risk of heart attack before the age of 65 if their mothers had also had a heart attack at an early age.

Other researchers have shown that a daughter’s stroke risk is linked to her mother’s history of stroke.

Lead author Amitava Banerjee, from the Stroke Prevention Research Unit at Oxford University, said: “Our study results point towards sex-specific heritability of vascular disease across different arterial territories Ð namely coronary and cerebral artery territories.

“Moreover, traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes don’t account for heart attack risk as clearly in women as in men, and tools to gauge risk in women are inadequate. There is clearly room for improvement in predicting heart attack risk in women.

“Existing tools to predict heart attack risk ignore family history or include it simply as a yes or no question, without accounting for relevant details such as age, sex and type of disease in patients compared with their relatives.

“Family history of cardiovascular disease is under-used in clinical practice.”

Some 55,000 women die from heart disease every year, compared with 66,000 men.

But researchers fear that unlike men, many are unaware of the potential early warning signs.

A recent survey by the British Heart Foundation discovered that just one in ten men or women over 50 discusses heart disease with their GP. - Daily Mail