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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

December, 2008


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Blood Test Can Spot Risks for Heart Attack, Stroke
By Rob Stein Washington Post Staff Writer

Blood Draw, Combined With Widely-Used Drug Could Be a Big Step in Prevention
A highly anticipated study has produced powerful evidence that a simple blood test can spot seemingly healthy people who are at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke and that giving them a widely used drug offers potent protection against the nation's leading killers.
In findings that could transform efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease, the study of nearly 18,000 volunteers in 26 countries found that a cholesterol-lowering statin slashed the risk of those flagged by the test by about half -- even if their cholesterol was normal.

"The potential public health benefits are huge," said Paul M. Ridker of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who presented the findings today at a meeting of the American Heart Association in New Orleans. "It really changes the way we have to think about prevention of heart attack and stroke."

The test measures a bodily reaction known as inflammation, reinforcing an increasingly accepted theory about the underlying biology of heart disease, which kills about 450,000 Americans each year.

"It's a breakthrough study," said Steven E. Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the research. "It's a blockbuster. It's absolutely paradigm-shifting."

Several leading authorities predicted the findings would prompt many doctors to start routinely screening middle-aged patients for inflammation with the $20 test and begin prescribing the statin used in the study, or one of the less expensive generic versions, to those who get worrisome results. All such drugs reduce inflammation.

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