New Tests Predicting Heart Attacks May Save More Lives

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, as reported in Parade magazine on January 30. Unfortunately, many don’t know their risk. In fact, although similar numbers of men and women go to emergency rooms complaining of heart attacks, a slightly higher number of women die from them, SCOPE, published by Stanford Medicine on January 30, notes.

“The predictive value of current screening tools in women is poor,” says Leslie Cho, M.D. [in Parade magazine], section head of preventive cardiology and rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic. “The good news: A simple new blood test may help.”

Better diagnostic blood tests could help save more womens’ lives, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found. Currently, diagnostic tests measure the level of troponin, a protein that’s released during a heart attack. A problem is that men produce up to double the amount of that protein. Anoop Shah, M.D., and other authors hypothesize that if different thresholds of that protein were used for men and women, that disparity would be corrected and more heart attacks in women could be potentially diagnosed.

One in 10 women may be diagnosed with a heart attack compared to one in five men using current methods, the BBC News Health, published on January 21 noted. Dr. Shah stated doctors can rely heavily on blood tests and that there is the temptation to rule out a heart attack too quickly when provided with a normal test result. He noted that women are less likely to have obvious symptoms and, if the negative test result comes back, they may be unfortunately sent home only to suffer from an attack later. Thus, adjusting the criteria regarding the level of the troponin protein to account for the much lower level produced by women may save many lives.

In fact, in a study of 1,000 subjects funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), when the high-sensitivity blood test was used, the number of heart attack diagnoses in women doubled, from 11 percent to 22 percent. The BHF is currently funding a clinical trial of more than 26,000 patients to verify those results.

On another front, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States recently approved the PLAC Test, which measures an enzyme that’s a marker for inflammation in the arteries; inflammation encourages the formation of plaque, playing a key role in strokes and heart attacks.

People with high cholesterol may already be at a higher risk for heart disease. Nieca Goldberg, M.D., clinical associate professor of medicine in the cardiology division at NYU School of Medicine, noted that it’s an additional test to screen for the risk of heart disease, but that individuals should still be screened by the other traditional methods such as checking blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and for diabetes. Doctor Goldberg indicated that, if the PLAC numbers are high, people may be started sooner on cholesterol medicine.

Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., section head of preventive cardiology and rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic notes that “the greatest use of PLAC testing in recommending stroke prevention efforts.”

As noted in the Inquisitr on January 6, researchers found that heart attack risk can be cut by 92 percent and heart disease risk by 66 percent by taking the following lifestyle steps: not smoking, maintaining a normal BMI, getting at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week, watching television less than seven hours a week, eating a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol to a drink or less per day.

[Photo courtesy]