Non-traditional tests may be dynamic duo in predicting heart problems

September 30, 2002

DALLAS, Oct. 1 - Partnering a blood test with an imaging scan may be a better gauge of whether blocked arteries are about to trigger a heart attack or stroke, researchers report in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a marker for inflammation in the blood stream. Calcium deposits in arteries - measured with computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan - indicate the level of plaque buildup. High CRP levels and calcium scores each have been linked with increased heart disease risk, but routine screenings don't test for them.

"The exact role of both calcium scores and CRP levels await more definitive studies, but we have found that their combined use is predictive of cardiovascular events," says Robert Detrano, M.D., Ph.D. study coauthor and professor of medicine at UCLA School of Medicine.

The tests are complementary: coronary calcium indicates the presence and amount of coronary atherosclerosis, while CRP suggests that plaque contains inflammatory factors that make it more prone to rupture and block blood vessels.

"Together they can gauge the presence, the amount and the stability of artery-clogging plaque," says Detrano.

Recent research has shown elevated CRP levels impart increased risk of a coronary event, he says. However, it's uncertain whether elevated levels of either cause risk or are just an association.

In Detrano's study, researchers examined data from more than 1,400 people free of heart disease when enrolled. Participants were part of the South Bay Health Watch, a study of adults from Los Angeles suburbs. They were 45 years or older with multiple cardiovascular risk factors, but had not exhibited symptoms of cardiovascular disease. All had their calcium and CRP levels measured. Researchers followed 967 of the people who didn't have diabetes for about six and a half years. People with diabetes were excluded because calcium scores have not been shown to predictive.

Fifty people had a heart attack or cardiovascular death and 104 had a cardiovascular event of some kind in the follow up. These people also had higher calcium scores and CRP levels than people who didn't have a cardiovascular event.

Calcium and CRP levels appeared to be synergistic predictors of cardiovascular events. Researchers noted a six-fold difference in risk of heart attack and cardiac death and a seven-fold difference in the risk of any cardiovascular event between the people at lowest risk compared to people at highest risk.

"Individuals at intermediate risk may benefit from profiling based on high sensitivity CRP levels and coronary calcium, as both factors contribute independently toward the incidence of cardiovascular events," says Detrano.

However, he adds that the findings are not strong enough to back widespread screening.

The research didn't address electron beam computed tomography (EBCT), a popular, but scientifically unvalidated way to measure coronary calcium.
-end-
Coauthors are Robert Park, M.D.; Min Xiang, M.S.; Paul Fu, Ph.D.; Youhanna Ibrahim, M.D.; Laurie LaBree, M.S.; and Stanley Azen, Ph.D. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute funded the study.

ADDITIONAL CONTACT INFORMATION:
For journal copies only, please call: 214-706-1396

For other information, call Carole Bullock: 214-706-1279 or Bridgette McNeill: 214-706-1135

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.