Is Your Heart at Risk?

Published Online: Sunday, June 1, 2003

A group of experts have suggested that a large group of people undergo a new test?a measure of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein?to indicate their risk for heart disease. C-reactive protein is produced in the liver as a response to injury or inflammation, and it can help identify people at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, even those with normal cholesterol.

The panel members, assembled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association, however, do not recommend that all adults be tested. They also have said that the test should not replace evaluations of other risk factors, such as cholesterol and high blood pressure.The panel recommends that people who are borderline high risk should have the test.

The panel suggests that, first, a physician assess the patient?s major risk factors (cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, sex, and age). Then, the physician should calculate the patient?s 10-year risk of developing a heart attack or dying of heart disease. If the risk is between 10% and 20%, the physician has to decide whether or not to treat the person. Having the test would help with the decision, according to Thomas A. Pearson, MD, MPH, PhD, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, cochair of the panel.

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