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Predicting Heart Attacks

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could actually predict when a heart attack is about to happen? After all, about three-fourths of all people who have a sudden heart attack die before they ever reach the hospital. In 2007 in the United States alone, that added up to 350,000 persons who died before they could reach an emergency room. That’s roughly 900 people every day on average. But what if there was a way to know, with some measure of reliability and certainty, that a heart attack was on the horizon? The thought certainly raises some interesting possibilities because if we could predict when a heart attack was about to occur, then perhaps some of these deaths could be prevented proactively.

It has long been accepted that inflammation and inflammatory markers such as the C-reactive protein (CRP) were predictors indicating an increased risk of developing heart disease. As researchers learn more about the way that inflammation works and how it contributes to the development of heart disease, studies relating to understanding other inflammation markers are increasing. Researchers are making inroads into identifying additional inflammatory markers that indicate a person’s risk of not only developing heart disease but of suffering a sudden cardiac event as well. This type of research is especially important because many people do not realize that they are at risk until they are having a heart attack.

A bactericidal enzyme produced by white blood cells, Myeloperoxidase (MPO), has been found to be a predictor of future heart attacks. Research indicates that high levels of MPO indicate that a heart attack is on the immediate horizon, generally within a six month time frame. MPO is believed to be the agent that changes low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol into an oxidized form. The oxidized form of LDL cholesterol then attaches to the arteries as plaque. As a result, levels of MPO levels increase if there is a blockage in the arteries. It is thought that anyone with MPO levels above 350 mg/L are at risk for a cardiac event. High levels of MPO appear to be an independent marker indicating heart disease independent of other risk factors.

High levels of MPO have been found to be accurate in predicting future heart attacks with 95 percent accuracy. This is, of course, significant. Any advanced warning that a cardiac event is on the horizon allows time for diagnosis of the specific underlying heart problem, lifestyle changes, treatment and intervention. Ultimately many lives may be saved or subsequent quality of life improved with advanced warning.

Know the Facts, Get the Stats, American Heart Association, 2007, http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/116861545709855-1041%20KnowTheFactsStats07_loRes.pdf,

Dr. A. Niskanen, M. Saramäki and E. Schwandt , Myeloperoxidase (MPO) and hs-CRP as predictive factors for myocardial infarction, 7294 CLI Nov 2006 V18.qxp 8/11/06 11:32 Page 38, http://www.cli-online.com/uploads/tx_ttproducts/datasheet/myeloperoxidase-%28mpo%29-and-hs-crp-as-predictive-factors-for-myocardial-infarction.pdf

Test for Imminent Heart Attacks, Cardiologists Discover New Enzyme that Predicts Risk of Heart Attack, Science Daily, 08 Aug, 2005, http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2005/0812-test_for_imminent_heart_attacks.htm

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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