Two markers may predict heart risk

Two proteins that play a role in inflammation may serve as indicators of a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. The immune system proteins, called interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), help orchestrate the body’s response to injury.

Physician Matteo Cesari of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his colleagues analyzed blood samples from 2,225 healthy people, all in their 70s. After an average follow-up period of 3.6 years, 188 of the participants had been newly diagnosed with heart disease, 92 had developed congestive heart failure, and 60 had had strokes.

The researchers found that, on average, people who encountered the heart problems had started the study with significantly higher blood concentrations of interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha than did participants who remained healthy. Higher interleukin-6 also correlated with higher stroke risk, the researchers report in the Nov. 11 Circulation.

The researchers say that although the two proteins’ roles in heart disease and stroke aren’t clear, measuring them in a person’s blood could prove to be a better indicator of such problems than is measuring C-reactive protein, another inflammation-related compound that physicians consider a strong indicator of heart disease risk.

The new results on the proteins’ diagnostic potential should spur researchers to develop better methods for measuring them in blood, Cesari says.


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