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Blood Test Identifies Individuals at Highest Risk of Dying From Heart Failure

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Mar 2024
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Image: The blood test could be used to help guide treatment for heart failure patients within five years (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: The blood test could be used to help guide treatment for heart failure patients within five years (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Heart failure is a serious condition where the heart is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body, leading to frequent hospital stays and a decline in quality of life. A protein known as neuropeptide Y (NPY) is produced by nerves in the heart under severe stress. NPY can cause dangerous heart rhythms and narrow the heart's smallest blood vessels, forcing the heart to work harder and narrowing the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Now, a new study has found that measuring NPY levels could predict the progression of heart failure, paving the way for a blood test to assist in managing heart failure treatment within the next five years.

The collaborative study by researchers at the University of Oxford (Oxford, UK) and University of Glasgow (Scotland, UK) found that patients with the highest NPY levels had a 50% greater chance of dying from heart complications within three years of the study, compared to those with lower NPY levels. This insight could lead to a blood test for identifying those most at risk of heart failure mortality. Over 800 heart failure patients at various stages were involved in the study, where researchers measured levels of B-Type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP), a hormone already used in heart failure diagnosis. They also monitored participants’ blood pressure and performed echocardiograms, following up regularly.

After adjusting for known factors affecting heart failure progression like age, kidney function, heart pumping efficiency, and BNP levels, it was found that patients with high NPY levels, about one-third of the participants, faced a 50% increased risk of dying from heart complications over the follow-up period compared to those with lower levels. High NPY levels did not result in more hospital admissions, suggesting a potential link to sudden, out-of-hospital heart-related deaths. The findings suggest that combining NPY measurements with BNP levels could refine heart failure diagnoses and identify those at increased risk of death.

Identifying high-risk individuals early could guide medical professionals in choosing the most effective treatments, including the possibility of installing a lifesaving implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). The researchers aim to make NPY blood testing available in clinical settings within five years. Future larger-scale studies will further examine the predictive value of high NPY levels for ICD candidacy. Additional research will consider NPY as a target for new heart failure treatments.

“Patients with heart failure are still at a high risk of dying despite the advances in treatment. Our work shows that NPY is a promising marker that can be measured in the blood to determine which patients are more likely to die. We hope that this will allow us to identify patients who may benefit from new therapies,” said Professor Pardeep Jhund, Professor of Cardiology and Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow’s School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health.

Related Links:
University of Oxford
University of Glasgow

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