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Early test for heart disease

This excerpt is taken from the Daily Mail website and is an interesting development in the detection of coronary heart disease. An existing test is already in place for Heart Failure which is called the BNP test however this is only administered upon a GP’s request and is a blood sample. It measures a certain peptides level in the blood stream. Anyway enjoy the post.

A test that spots heart disease years before symptoms appear is being developed by scientists. It could save thousands of lives a year by detecting the arterial damage that can lead to heart attacks, angina, heart failure and other coronary conditions.The test could be available in as little as two years, with patients tested in middle age.

Those in the early stages of coronary artery disease would then be treated to prevent them going on to suffer a heart attack. There is an urgent need for better diagnosis of those at risk of heart attacks, which kill one Briton every six minutes and cost the economy £9billion a year. The test, being developed at Glasgow University, uses a urine rather than blood sample, dispensing with the need for needles. It works by measuring levels of proteins that are tell-tale signs of heart problems. Working with researchers from the U.S., Australia, Germany and Denmark, the British team has identified more than 200 such proteins and worked out whether they rise or fall as clogged arteries narrow. They then tested the urine of 138 men and women, around half of whom had diseased arteries. The test was almost 90 per cent accurate, the Journal of Hypertension reports. Professor Harald Mischak, of Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, then tested people being treated for high blood pressure. Their results also changed as health improved, suggesting the kit could be used to monitor how well cardiac drugs are working.

Preliminary research suggests the kit can also detect heart problems before a person first shows any symptoms. The professor now plans to test hundreds of people and track their health for several years. But he believes the kit will give at least two years’ warning of impending problems. Professor Mischak said: ‘If you intervene with drugs and the intervention is successful, they would never experience the disease.’ The technique could be adapted to pick up signs of other health problems including kidney damage, and some cancers. The professor, who has founded a biotech company, believes that the test for coronary artery disease is more accurate than any others. It will cost around £400 per patient at first, although the price will fall with use.

Any decision to use it in widespread screening on the NHS  would hinge on the health service being confident that the money spent would be more than made back in long-term improvements to health. Heart disease costs the taxpayer £1.7billion a year in healthcare. Factoring in lost productivity in the ill and those caring for them takes the annual cost to the economy to £9billion. Charles Knight, of the British Cardiovascular Society, described the research as ‘very exciting’ but said it was still at an early stage. He said: ‘The problem with cardiovascular disease is that it can present with a heart attack out of nowhere or with sudden death, so detection is very important. If you could tell someone when they were 30 that there were signs there was a problem and you could begin to get it sorted, the chances are the problem could be avoided in a way that can’t be done at the moment.’

A gene that cuts the odds of high blood pressure and heart disease has been identified by scientists. Around 5 per cent of us have inherited two copies of the gene from our parents and are 15.4 per cent less likely to suffer heart problems. The gene is thought to control how the body handles salt and boost health by keeping  blood pressure stable, the journal PLoS Genetics reports. Professor Anna Dominiczak, of Glasgow University said it could help develop new medication.

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