Heart Attack Alert: How a Standard Blood Test Could Save Your Life

Human Heart Attack

Researchers have developed a novel method to predict imminent heart attacks using standard blood tests and an online tool. Led by Professor Johan Sundström, the study analyzed blood samples from over 169,000 individuals, finding 90 molecules linked to heart attack risk. This advancement offers a unique opportunity for individuals to assess their heart attack risk and may significantly enhance preventive healthcare efforts.

By analyzing the outcomes of a routine blood test with an online tool, you can determine your elevated risk of experiencing a heart attack in the next six months. This tool was created by researchers at Uppsala University with the objective of enhancing individuals’ drive to adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

Heart attacks are the most common cause of death in the world and are increasing globally. Many high-risk people are not identified or do not take their preventive treatment. Now researchers led by Professor Johan Sundström at Uppsala University have found that heart attacks can be predicted with a standard blood test. The problem, according to the researchers, is that risk factors have previously been verified in studies involving five to ten years of follow-up, where only factors that are stable over time can be identified.

The Dynamic Period Before a Heart Attack

“However, we know that 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,” says Sundström, who is a cardiologist and professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University.

Johan Sundström

Johan Sundström, cardiologist and professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University. Credit: Mikael Wallerstedt

Together with other European researchers, he has proceeded from the hypothesis that several important biological processes are active during the months before a heart attack and that these could be detected using a simple blood test.

“We wanted to develop methods that would enable the health services to identify people who will soon suffer their first heart attack,” Sundström says.

The research group had access to blood samples from 169,053 individuals without prior cardiovascular disease in six European cohorts. Within six months, 420 of these people suffered their first heart attack. Their blood was then compared with blood from 1,598 healthy members of the cohorts.

“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.

A Simple Online Tool for Risk Assessment

The researchers have also developed a simple online tool in which anyone can find out their risk of having a heart attack within six months.

“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 researchers will now study the 90 or so new molecules to understand them better and see whether there are any possibilities of treatment.

“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.

Reference: “Markers of imminent myocardial infarction” by Stefan Gustafsson, Erik Lampa, Karin Jensevik Eriksson, Adam S. Butterworth, Sölve Elmståhl, Gunnar Engström, Kristian Hveem, Mattias Johansson, Arnulf Langhammer, Lars Lind, Kristi Läll, Giovanna Masala, Andres Metspalu, Conchi Moreno-Iribas, Peter M. Nilsson, Markus Perola, Birgit Simell, Hemmo Sipsma, Bjørn Olav Åsvold, Erik Ingelsson, Ulf Hammar, Andrea Ganna, Bodil Svennblad, Tove Fall and Johan Sundström, 12 February 2024, Nature Cardiovascular Research.
DOI: 10.1038/s44161-024-00422-2

The study was funded by Hjärt-Lungfonden, Vetenskapsrådet, AFA Försäkring, and Anders Wiklöf.

One of the six cohorts is from the Uppsala-based population study EpiHealth.

2 Comments on "Heart Attack Alert: How a Standard Blood Test Could Save Your Life"

  1. Hottan Palpitaytin | March 9, 2024 at 10:34 am | Reply

    The article is shy on details of this simple blood test, just searching for “molecules”. There are many molecules in your blood, hopefully.

    The study has details. They determined “From more than 1,800 biomarkers…Forty-eight proteins, 43 metabolites, age, sex and systolic blood pressure were associated with the risk of an imminent first myocardial infarction.” which is exciting. I would like to see more information on especially how to reduce or change those proteins and metabolites, lower systolic blood pressure, decrease age, and increase sex. This kind of predictive medicine could make an enormous difference, in not just preparing people, but possibly to interventions reducing or eliminating the risk. If it could be done with small blood samples, heart attacks could be made predictable. Articles should be more specific, but studies like this are why I read SciTechDaily. Thanks to researchers at Uppsala University, but also contributions from Cambridge, Sweden, Norway, Lyon, Estonia, Italy, Spain, Boston, Australia, a globe-spanning effort.

    • Hottan Palpitaytin | March 9, 2024 at 10:45 am | Reply

      I forgot to mention, the authors even started putting their app up at github.com/stefan-gustafsson-work/mimi

      Open source is how to do medical science.

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