Blood test can predict risk of imminent heart attack

Monday, 04 March, 2024

Blood test can predict risk of imminent heart attack

A research team led by Uppsala University has found that heart attacks — which are the most common cause of death in the world — can be predicted with a standard blood test. They have also developed an online tool that lets users input their blood test results along with other basic information to discover if they are at increased risk of having a heart attack within six months.

“We know that the time just before a heart attack is very dynamic,” said team leader Professor Johan Sundström. “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.”

Together with other European researchers, Sundström 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. He explained, “We wanted to develop methods that would enable the health services to identify people who will soon suffer their first heart attack.”

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 1598 healthy members of the cohorts, with the results published in the journal Nature Cardiovascular Research.

“We identified around 90 molecules that were linked to a risk of a first heart attack; however, the samples that are already taken in health care now are enough to predict the risk,” Sundström said. This enabled the researchers to develop their online tool, available at, through 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,” Sundström said. “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.”

The researchers will now study the 90 or so new molecules to understand them better and see whether there are any possibilities of treatment. They also hope to carry out a new study to see whether the online tool is providing the kind of motivation they intended.

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