New blood test could pinpoint heart disease risk

More than two out of five people in England have high cholesterol, which is not good news for their cardiovascular system. Slowly engulfing the arteries, high cholesterol can pave the way for serious health problems such as heart disease and strokes. Fortunately, new blood tests offer a “more accurate way” to determine the risk of these diseases.

From excess fatty foods to lack of exercise, poor lifestyle habits often set the stage for high cholesterol levels.

Considered a risk factor for heart disease, LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood is checked regularly by your doctor if you are over 40 and overweight.

However, another blood test may help more accurately predict a high risk of cardiovascular disease in seemingly healthy patients.

This test detects elevated levels of a protein called ApoB, which is considered an early sign of the world’s number one killer.

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Principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Anderson of Intermountain Health, Salt Lake City, said: “Testing for ApoB doesn’t tell you how much cholesterol a patient has, but instead measures the number of particles that carry it.”

According to the study, this test could help identify patients at increased risk of heart attack or stroke despite having normal levels of “bad” cholesterol.

The researchers suggested that it could save thousands of lives if the test were widely used.

However, its high price means that this blood test is rarely used and is not yet firmly established in the healthcare system.

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To illustrate the prices, the team explained that a classic cholesterol test costs around £30, while an apoB test costs more than £130.

Dr. Anderson said: “While this is still not a commonly prescribed test, we have found that it is being used more frequently and could lead to a more accurate way of testing lipoprotein-related risk than what we are doing now.

“For example, some people have normal levels of LDL cholesterol but still have high particle counts due to an abundance of small, dense LDL particles.”

Additionally, research is increasingly suggesting that particle counts outperform cholesterol levels when it comes to predictors of disease risk.

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The research team reviewed all patient records from a retrospective study spanning 12 years from 2010 to February 2022.

Their results showed that ApoB is more accurate in assessing cardiovascular risk, especially in patients with normal cholesterol levels.

Dr Anderson added: “The evidence suggests that this number of particles increases risk more than just cholesterol levels.

“ApoB can help us identify a population of patients with normal or even low LDL levels, but who are at higher risk and need more aggressive treatment.”

The research team unfortunately doesn’t expect ApoB to eclipse standard cholesterol testing anytime soon due to its price.

But they believe the blood test should increasingly be seen as a valuable tool for clarifying cardiovascular disease risk.

In addition, a UK study found that the ApoB test alone was able to identify a cause for concern in about two per cent of cases, the equivalent of thousands of patients.

The results of the study were presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.

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