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Protein may signal heart problems

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11:47am, December 3, 2002

A protein already linked to inflammation is also a strong predictor of heart problems, a new study suggests.

Researchers tracked the health of 27,939 outwardly healthy women over an average of 8 years. The 20 percent of women in the group with the highest concentrations of the protein, called C-reactive protein (CRP), were three times as likely to have a heart attack during the study as women with the lowest CRP were.

In contrast, women with excess low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol–a commonly measured risk factor for heart problems–faced a heart attack risk only 1.4 times that of the group with the lowest LDL, reports a team led by Paul M. Ridker of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Moreover, women with high CRP and low LDL were at greater cardiac risk than were those with low CRP and high LDL, the scientists report in the Nov. 14 New England Journal of Medicine.

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