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disease is the number-one killer of adults in the Western world.
Over a million Americans suffer heart attacks every year, and many
who suffer these attacks have never had the symptoms of heart disease.
But thanks to work done by Paul Ridker, MD, cardiologist at Brigham
and Womens Hospital, Nader Rifai, PhD,
investigator in Laboratory Medicine, and their colleagues, a new
screening tool offers a more effective way to assess heart attack
risk than standard cholesterol and blood pressure tests alone.
The inexpensive blood-screening test measures levels of C-reactive
protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation in blood-vessel walls.
In a study published in the January issue of Circulation,
the researchers evaluated the relevance of CRP and found that elevated
CRP levels were linked to increased risk of heart attack, stroke
and type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes.
The researchers examined CRP levels of nearly 15,000 participants
in the ongoing Womens Health Study, including almost 4,000
women who had metabolic syndrome, meaning they displayed
at least three of five conditions (abdominal obesity, high triglycerides,
low levels of good HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure
and high blood sugar) associated with a significant cardiovascular
After eight years of follow-up, subjects with metabolic syndrome
and CRP levels above 3.0 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) had almost
twice the rate of heart attacks, strokes, operations to restore
blood flow to the heart and death from cardiovascular disease than
those with metabolic syndrome and CRP levels of less than 3.0 mg/L.
This work comes on the heels of other studies that indicate
CRP is an accurate predictor of cardiovascular events, says
Rifai. It demonstrates that CRP is not only a predictor of
risk in healthy individuals, but also in those with metabolic syndrome.
In response to the study, the American Heart Association and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have drawn up guidelines
for physicians to use the test. The guidelines suggest that physicians
use CRP levels when deciding the right treatment and prevention
strategies for patients who already show heightened cardiovascular
While studies havent yet found evidence that lowering CRP
will lower cardiovascular risk, that possibility is a promising
direction for future research. In the meantime, lifestyle changes
such as a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, weight loss and
stopping smoking can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Blood Test Predicts Heart Disease
for the new heart disease trigger