New test may diagnose heart disease risk better

A new, unprecedented test created at UCLA may offer a better way to diagnose heart disease risk for patients who develop coronary heart disease despite normal cholesterol levels.

Research published online in Circulation on Nov. 24 reports that testing the inflammatory and/or anti-inflammatory properties of a patient's HDL cholesterol may be a more accurate way of predicting heart disease risk than simply measuring the level of HDL cholesterol in the body, which is commonly used in practice.

The new UCLA test gauged whether patients' HDL provided the normal anti-inflammatory protection against coronary heart disease- or had become pro-inflammatory, which actually enhances the disease process. HDL is typically known as the "good cholesterol," and normally functions to protect against vessell wall inflammation, which can lead to heart disease.

"Unfortunately there are many patients that develop coronary heart disease despite having normal cholesterol levels and no other risk factors," said Dr. Ben Ansell, first author and director of the UCLA Center for Primary Care-Based Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. "Traditionally, normal to high HDL levels are associated with low heart disease risk, but some of these patients have pro-inflammatory HDL, and thus may not be protected, and even be at higher risk. Approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of all heart attacks occur in persons with normal or high HDL-cholesterol levels."

In addition, the study found that for patients testing positive for pro-inflammatory HDL, statin treatment significantly improved their HDL function.

Currently no clinically available test exists that measures the inflammatory properties of HDL. Although the study used two new blood testing methods developed at UCLA, one of the methods -- called the cell-free HDL function test -- appeared to have greatest potential for clinical application given its ease of use.

"The new testing method may offer not only

Contact: Rachel Champeau
University of California - Los Angeles

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