Identifying 'Under the Radar' Heart Disease Risk

Biomarker blood tests pick up subtle clues

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center believe that a new blood test for protein biomarkers could identify people at risk for heart disease who aren’t currently being treated.

Their study, published in Circulation, asked whether measuring levels of two biomarkers—proteins in the blood—would identify people in need of treatment. One of the proteins, high sensitivity troponin, measures injury to the heart muscle, and the other, NT-proBNP, measures stress on the heart muscle. The presence of these proteins is indicative of subtle long-term cardiac injury, like wear and tear over time.

The researchers looked at data from 12,987 participants who experienced 825 cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, over a median follow-up time of 10 years. The information was compiled from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, the Dallas Heart Study, and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

The researchers found that approximately one third of adults with mild hypertension who are not currently recommended for treatment had slight elevations of one of the biomarkers. They were also more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, or congestive heart failure over the next 10 years. In other words, these patients are "flying under the radar" and do not know that they are at greater risk of cardiovascular events.

"We think this type of test can help in the shared decision-making process for patients who need more information about their risk," said preventive cardiologist Dr. Parag Joshi, assistant professor of internal medicine. "These blood tests are easily accessible and are less expensive than some other tests for risk assessment."

Source: Science Daily, Nov. 11, 2019