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A simple blood test can predict your risk of having a stroke

Houston, TX - 5/12/2004

Middle-aged Americans with high levels of a certain blood enzyme have twice the risk for stroke, according to new research conducted at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston. Furthermore, the research shows that when that enzyme is combined with high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, there is an eight-fold increase in the risk for stroke.

The enzyme, called Lp-PLA2 (lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2), already has been identified as a predictor of heart disease and can be checked with a simple blood test, known as the PLAC test.  New data proves that not only can it predict the risk of heart disease, but also helps to predict stroke.  When a patient has high levels of both Lp-PLA2 and CRP the risk of stroke dramatically increases. 

“Approximately 700,000 people have strokes each year in America,” said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center and principal investigator for the trial studying both markers for stroke. “The combination of these blood tests may be a great help for physicians to identify patients who are increased risk for stroke who may benefit from stroke prevention measures including diet, exercise and medications such as aspirin and statins.”

The data tying the enzyme to stroke, presented over the weekend at the 5th Annual Conference on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in San Francisco, is the latest result from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a landmark NIH-funded investigation of atherosclerosis and its causes in more than 15,000 apparently healthy men and women in the U.S. aged 45 to 64 years. This study of the ARIC population examined the relationship between the enzyme, CRP and traditional risk factors and the incidence of stroke over approximately six years. The results showed that mean levels of both Lp-PLA2 and CRP were higher in the 223 men and women who suffered strokes than in a random sample of 766 who did not suffer strokes. 

Ballantyne said this discovery is significant because it gives physicians a tool to better predict which patients are at risk for stroke.