WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The Food and Drug Administration has approved a blood test that purports to measure a person's risk of heart disease, cardiac arrest and the potential for other heart problems.
The test, intended for those without evidence or history of heart disease, gauges a patient's risk by identifying a biomarker called Lp-PLA2, a signal of the vascular inflammation associated with the accumulation of artery-clogging plaques. A person with blood vessels increasingly narrowed by plaque buildup are at a heightened risk of a heart attack.
"Patients with test results that show Lp-PLA2 activity greater than the level of 225 nanomoles per minute per milliliter are at increased risk for a [heart disease] event," the FDA said in a press release.
Researchers say the test is particularly effective at predicting the risk of women -- and especially African-American women. The blood test's effectiveness was tested on more than 4,500 patients with no history of heart disease. Researchers followed up with test-takers after an average of 5.3 years. Those whose Lp-PLA2 levels tested higher than 225 nanomoles had a 7 percent incidence rate. Those who tested below had a coronary heart disease event rate of 3.5 percent.
Until recently, doctors have mostly relied on cholesterol levels to predict a person's risk of heart attack or stroke, but studies have suggested that even when testing isolated so-called bad cholesterol, its predictive value is low.
Coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death among all races, killing more than 385,000 people each year.