Discover How a New Blood Test Predicts Heart Attack Risk

Linda Harris

Written by Linda Harris


In an era where heart attacks strike every 40 seconds in the United States, claiming over a million lives each year, scientists are relentlessly pursuing better early detection methods. Groundbreaking research has taken a significant leap forward, as scientists identify 90 potential biomarkers in the blood that could herald a pending cardiac event. Among these, brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) stands out as a particularly strong indicator of an imminent heart attack.

Fortunately, BNP is already detectable through existing blood tests. These markers are produced by the heart muscle under stress, indicating cardiovascular strain that could lead to a heart attack. The discovery of these biomarkers is a testament to the dedicated research conducted by the team at Uppsala University, who are working towards an “early warning” system for heart attacks.

Creating an Online Prediction Tool

As part of their innovative approach, Uppsala University researchers have embarked on creating an online prediction tool. This tool is designed to integrate personal health data to estimate an individual’s risk of experiencing a heart attack within a six-month window. In one of the largest studies of its kind, published in Nature Cardiovascular Research, blood samples from 169,053 individuals were scrutinized. The study compared 420 individuals who suffered a heart attack within six months against 1,598 healthy controls, providing a robust dataset for analysis.

While the online tool is currently harnessing existing markers and not the newly identified suite of molecules, the aim is to incorporate these novel biomarkers in the future. This would enhance the tool’s precision in assessing the imminent risk of heart attacks, a metric not currently evaluated by existing medical protocols.

Understanding the Indicators of Heart Risk

One of the key indicators that the tool assesses is the Coronary Artery Calcium Score (CACS), which has shown a weak association with BNP levels. Although CACS is a long-term heart risk predictor, the inclusion of BNP and other molecules could provide a more immediate risk assessment. The tool’s ability to compare an individual’s risk against average risks for their age and sex makes it a valuable resource for both researchers and healthcare professionals.

However, some risk factors, such as Lp(a) values which are indicative of genetic heart disease risk, are not yet accounted for in the study. Nevertheless, clinical trials are currently exploring therapies for elevated Lp(a) levels, which may further enhance the tool’s effectiveness.

Practical Implications for Health Screening

The frequency of using the new prediction tool could vary, with individuals at higher risk possibly requiring blood tests every six months. This is a critical period where life events and stressors can significantly elevate the risk of a heart attack. Should the tool indicate an imminent threat, intervention or aggressive prevention measures might be necessary, ranging from percutaneous coronary angioplasty (PCA) in dire cases to lifestyle adjustments and chronic disease management for less immediate threats.

As the research progresses, screening guidelines, including appropriate ages and frequency of testing, will need to be established. The inclusion of MIMI/UKBB values in the tool helps to align the risk assessment with broader medical population data, ensuring a comprehensive approach to heart health.

Advancing Towards Proactive Heart Health Management

The evolution of this predictive technology signifies a transformative step towards proactive heart health management. With further research and development, this tool has the potential to not only predict but also prevent heart attacks, saving countless lives. As we await the integration of the new biomarkers into the online tool, the medical community anticipates a future where heart attacks can be forecasted with unprecedented accuracy, allowing for timely and effective intervention.