BACKGROUND: Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have developed a new test to identify those who are in imminent danger of a heart attack by measuring the level of a disease-fighting enzyme in the bloodstream. A start-up company called PrognostiX has received FDA approval to sell the diagnostic test.
HOW IT WORKS: Enzymes are proteins in the body that control metabolism: they convert nutrients into energy and new cell tissue. Enzymes can speed up chemical processes that would otherwise take longer. They are also very specific: each type of enzyme only reacts with one specific compound. High levels of an enzyme called myeloperoxidase (MPO) in the bloodstream can signal a person's near-term risk for heaving a heart attack within months.
WHAT CAUSES HEART ATTACKS: Heart attack is the leading cause of death in North and South America and in Europe. It is usually the result of prolonged hardening and narrowing of the arteries that direct blood into the heart. When blood vessels are healthy, oxygen-rich blood flows easily to all the muscles and organs of the body. But if they become clogged by the buildup of fatty deposits on vessel walls, blood can be cut off, killing heart muscle cells. This is called coronary heart disease, and it can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK:
- Pressure, tightness, or burning chest pain. May extend into the jaw, shoulders, back, or arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath