Scientists have introduced a new blood testing method that could significantly alter the way we approach heart attack prevention. By combining a standard blood test with an innovative online tool, individuals can now assess their risk of experiencing a heart attack within the next six months.
This novel approach, spearheaded by Professor Johan Sundström from Uppsala University, seeks to enhance patient care while hoping to motivate individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Historically, the prediction of heart attacks has been a complex challenge. Traditional methods, based on long-term studies, have struggled to identify high-risk individuals effectively.
These studies typically focus on stable risk factors over extended periods, failing to account for the dynamic nature of the period leading up to a heart attack. Professor Sundström highlights the urgency of this issue.
“The time just before a heart attack is very dynamic. For example, the risk of a heart attack doubles during the month after a divorce, and the risk of a fatal heart event is five times as high during the week after a cancer diagnosis,” Sundström explains.
To address this challenge, Sundström and his team, in collaboration with European researchers, embarked on a mission to identify biological markers indicative of an imminent heart attack.
Their research analyzed blood samples from 169,053 individuals, identifying approximately 90 molecules associated with an increased risk of a heart attack.
“We identified around 90 molecules that were linked to a risk of a first heart attack. However, the samples that are already taken in healthcare now are enough to predict the risk. We hope that this will increase people’s motivation to take their preventive medicine or stop smoking, for example,” says Sundström.
Remarkably, the team discovered that existing blood tests in healthcare settings are sufficient for risk assessment. This finding paves the way for a more accessible and efficient approach to heart attack prediction.
Another significant outcome of this research is the development of a simple online tool that enables individuals to assess their risk of having a heart attack within six months. This tool represents a critical step toward empowering people to take charge of their health.
“This was one of the aims of the entire study, since we know that people feel relatively low motivation to follow preventive treatments. If you find out that you happen to have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack soon, perhaps you will feel more motivated to prevent it,” Sundström says.
The implications of this research extend far beyond its current achievements. The team plans to further investigate the identified molecules, exploring potential treatment options and better understanding their role in heart attack prevention.
Additionally, a new study is on the horizon to evaluate the effectiveness of the online tool in motivating individuals to pursue preventive measures.
“We hope to be able to carry out a new study here in Uppsala to see whether the online tool provides the kind of motivation we intend,” Sundström concludes.
In summary, this important initiative marks a significant advancement in the field of cardiovascular health and exemplifies the power of innovative research in transforming patient care.
By leveraging simple blood tests and digital tools, Uppsala University’s research offers hope for millions at risk of heart attacks, moving us closer to a future where preventative care is more personalized, accessible, and effective.
The full study was published in the journal Nature.
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