Blood Test Predicts Heart Attack Risk
A simple blood test may help doctors identify heart patients who are at high risk for having heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.
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Protein Levels vs. Heart Risk continued...
During this time, roughly a quarter of the patients either died or had a
hospitalization from a nonfatal heart attack, stroke, or heart
The annual event rate among patients with the highest NT-proBNP levels at
study entry was 19.6%, compared with just 2.6% among patients with the lowest
There were four times as many heart attack cases reported among patients
with the highest levels of the protein compared with those with the lowest, and
four times as many strokes.
But the strongest association was seen for heart failure. Eighty cases of
heart failure were reported among patients with the highest NT-proBNP levels,
compared with just three cases among patients with the lowest levels.
"After adjusting for all other risk factors, it's clear that this marker
is picking up something that we are otherwise unable to detect with standard
tests such as echocardiography," says study researcher Mary Whooley,
While there is some suggestion that the test could prove useful for
identifying heart risk in the general public, its most immediate use is for
patients with established heart disease.
But even among these patients, its role in disease management is not yet
clear, cardiologist Robert Bonow, MD, tells WebMD.
Bonow is chief of cardiology at Northwestern University Medical School and a
former president of the American Heart Association.
"We aren't sure at this point what to do with this information once we
have it," he says. "We can treat these patients [with elevated
NT-proBNP] very aggressively, but we should be doing that anyway."
Bonow adds that while NT-proBNP may prove to be a useful test for
asymptomatic patients with heart disease, "we don't really know this
In an editorial accompanying the study, Marvin Konstam, MD, of Tufts
University School of Medicine agreed that it remains to be seen if NT-proBNP
will prove useful for the management of patients with heart disease.
Konstam tells WebMD that more study is needed to determine the value of such
"The real home run will be when we identify a marker and an intervention
to go along with it to lower risk," he says. "The best example of this
is LDL, or bad, cholesterol. We not only know that LDL
cholesterol is a predictor of heart risk, but we know that we can
lower that risk with drugs."