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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Researchers at LDS Hospital have identified an enzyme that may be used to help identify people at greater risk for coronary heart disease.
"Our findings may allow these individuals to be better classified as to their true risk level by this new method. Those at lower risk, for example, could be treated with lifestyle changes alone," said Jeffrey Anderson, associate chief of cardiology at LDS Hospital and clinical investigator of the study.
"Patients with a higher suspected risk would be candidates for medications to lower cholesterol," he said. "Given the huge impact of coronary heart disease, and the large numbers of individuals who suffer heart attacks, strokes, or cardiovascular death undiagnosed and untreated, these findings could have important health implications."
Anderson said researchers will need to further study the findings before they can be incorporated into clinical practice.
Coronary heart disease occurs when the arteries become clogged with fatty deposits. About 13 million people suffer from it and about 656,000 die from it each year, according to the American Heart Association.
The seven-year study involved 1,493 patients enrolled in the registry of LDS Hospital's Intermountain Heart Collaborative study.
Researchers found that elevated levels of the enzyme, called Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (LpPLA2), significantly increased risk of coronary artery disease. In addition, LpPLA2 levels were predictive of a long-term risk of death due to blockages in coronary arteries.
During the study, levels of both the LpPLA2 and C-reactive protein were measured in all patients. Cardiovascular inflammation is a precursor of coronary artery disease, and CRP is an indicator of inflammation. It is used as a predictor of coronary artery disease.
However, elevated CRP levels are also present in other inflammatory conditions, such as infections and arthritis.
Patients also underwent coronary angiography for diagnosis of possible coronary artery disease.
Patients were then followed for almost seven years to see whether the measured LpPLA2 and CRP levels were predictive of future cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, strokes and death from block- ages in the coronary arteries.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)