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Articles January 2019 Issue

Possible New Heart Attack Risk Factor Identified

If the results of a new Swedish study are borne out, blood thinners may be added to the arsenal of heart attack prevention measures. The study, published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine, tested the blood of 805 individuals under age 75 years admitted to Swedish hospitals for a first heart attack (and an equal number of healthy controls) looking for antibodies related to blood clotting. They found that 11 percent of the heart attack patients had high levels of specific antiphospholipid antibodies. These antibodies were 10 times more common in heart attack sufferers than in their healthy peers. High levels of these antibodies are indicative of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), a condition often seen in people with lupus that is characterized by the formation of blood clots in veins, arteries, or smaller blood vessels. It is not known if these antibodies were present prior to the heart attacks, so they could be either a predictor of heart attacks or a response to having had a heart attack. If future long-term studies indicate APS is indeed a risk factor for heart attack, treatment with anticoagulant drugs could be used as a new weapon in heart attack prevention.

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