New Test for Heart Disease

There will soon be a new blood test available that may predict whether or not you are at risk for heart disease.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the PLAC Test for LP-PLA2, which tests for swelling in the arteries. “When people get hardening of the arteries, the lining of the artery becomes inflamed. It‘s almost like a burn on your skin,” said Dr. Kirk Parr, a cardiologist at St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis. “This test is fairly specific for testing for that inflammation, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.”

Studies on the test have shown that it can predict coronary heart disease even in people with no previous symptoms, and Parr says it will be another tool doctors can use in addition to tests that already help find the risk of heart attacks. “For instance, cholesterol, which has been around a long time, but it is a pretty potent and useful test. We can also test blood sugars and check for what we call a C-reactive protein,” Parr said. The new test will also have different result markers for different demographics, as studies have shown that heart disease is more common in African-American women with high levels of LP-PLA2 artery swelling. “Black people in general also have a higher risk of coronary heart disease than white and Asian people,” Parr said.

The test should be available for much of the country by the spring of 2015, and Parr says it may take some time for doctors to learn how to properly read it. “I haven‘t used it yet, nor have most physicians. There might be a short learning curve, but I think it‘s intriguing and will become a part of our practice.”