Health Team

Study: Blood Protein Good Predictor of Heart Stress

Posted January 9, 2007 6:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2007 9:12 a.m. EST

— A blood test could help physicians determine who is at greatest risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Thomas Gray, 64, receives regular medical treatment for heart disease, but after suffering two hearts attacks, he would like to know what his odds are for the future.

"I had a massive heart attack in '91 and I had a second one in '94, and I've been a cardiac patient since," Gray said.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers focused on a blood protein called NT-PRO-BNP, which they said might indicate cardiac stress levels better than echocardiograms or treadmill stress tests.

"What we think is that the blood test that detects NT-PRO-BNP levels can detect the heart that's under stress at very early stages in a way that may be missed by other types of heart tests that we routinely order," said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the lead author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

"In some of these patients who otherwise had normal tests, their NT-PRO-BNP levels were high and were predictive of having future complications," Bibbins-Domingo said.

Researchers, who studied about 1,000 patients for more than three years, said the blood test could help doctors identify patients at highest risk for problems and target treatments to the patients who need them most.

"I've been wondering how much longer do I have and what's the prognosis look like, so I think it would be great to have a test like that," Gray said.