American Heart Association rapid access journal report
A simple blood test may identify people who have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The test measures gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) – an enzyme produced primarily by the liver and catalyzes glutathione, the main antioxidant in the body. The enzyme is elevated in some forms of liver disease, so physicians use GGT levels to detect liver damage and alcohol abuse.
Ulmer cited two mechanisms that might explain why GGT can indicate cardiovascular disease. The first, originally proposed by the Italian researchers, is that high GGT shows the presence of atherosclerosis. The second is that its related to the ill effects of heavy drinking on blood vessels.
"Beyond its role as an indicator of liver function, GGT is very likely to predict cardiovascular disease," Ulmer said. "Since GGT is correlated with established risk factors, the known ways of preventing the disease might also be effective in lowering GGT levels." Because the study participants were overwhelmingly white Austrians, the team could not say whether their findings hold true for other racial and ethnic groups.
"Both epidemiologic and experimental studies should be performed to confirm these findings," Ulmer said. "GGT should be included as a major parameter in future cardiovascular intervention studies."
In an accompanying editorial, Michele Emdin, M.D., of the cardiovascular medicine department at the National Research Council in Pisa, Italy, wrote that elevated GGT might help identify people with "the most risky combination for the vulnerable plaque, and the best medical strategies for the stabilization of lesions, rather than percutaneous or surgical."
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