FDA approves new blood test that predicts heart attack risk

Coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death among all races and ethnicities, killing more than 385,000 people each year.
By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 16, 2014 at 1:49 PM
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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.

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