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HEALTH REPORT - New Heart Attack Tests - 2003-11-04

Broadcast: November 5, 2003

This is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Health Report.

A new blood test could give doctors a better way to tell if a person is in danger of a heart attack.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, developed the experimental test. It measures the amount of an enzyme produced by white blood cells. This protein is called myeloperoxidase, or M-P-O. M-P-O is present in the fatty material found on the arteries of people who die suddenly of a heart attack.

The researchers reported on their work in the New England Journal of Medicine. They studied more than six-hundred people over several months last year. All had arrived at the Emergency Room of the Cleveland Clinic within twenty-four hours of the start of chest pain.

The researchers found a link between high levels of M-P-O and the chances that a person would suffer a heart attack within six months. They also found that the M-P-O level in the blood correctly told a person’s risk of heart disease ninety-five percent of the time.

Researchers had known that M-P-O plays a part in hardening of the arteries. They say the study is more proof of the risks of inflammation in artery walls. Inflammation loosens some of the fatty cholesterol material that attaches to the walls. The material can separate from the artery and block the flow of blood to the heart or the brain. The M-P-O level shows the amount of inflammation in arteries.

M-P-O is one of a number of substances being studied as ways to find the probability of heart disease. German researchers reported about a second one in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is called glutathione peroxidase.

They measured levels of this molecule in the red blood cells of people with suspected coronary artery disease. They studied more than six-hundred people for about five years. The study suggests that a low level of the molecule is a sign of a coming heart attack.

New blood tests like these would add to the ways that doctors decide what to do for patients with chest pain. The choice of treatment could reduce the chances of a heart attack. The tests themselves must be tested further. But the Cleveland researchers say their M-P-O test could be ready for use within a year.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Phoebe Zimmermann.