A team of Harvard and Utah researchers has found it may be possible to predict who is at highest risk to develop heart problems — and how long they may have to live — using the commonly used blood test known as a CBC (complete blood count), among health individuals who don't have any signs of cardio problems.
Scientists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, collaborated with scientists at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to come up with the CBC risk score, and found it to be a powerful tool for predicting which individuals were more likely to develop heart disease and die.
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The study, presented this week at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas, involved more than 17,000 individuals in 26 countries, who were healthy at the start of the trial, and followed them for up to five years.
The results showed those with a lower CBC risk score were very unlikely to die, while those with CBC risk scores in the middle of the range had more than 50 percent higher risk of death. People with the highest CBC risk scores were about twice as likely to die as those with low scores, researchers found.
Physicians have used this CBC lab test for years, but they do not understand that all of its components provide information about life expectancy, according to lead researcher, Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center.
"Physicians can now provide better care using the CBC risk score as a standard method to assess whether patients may have future health problems that lead to death," he said.
"Among apparently healthy individuals, this risk score can help physicians identify which patients have higher risk, as well as who they should focus further time and effort. The score also gives physicians excellent confidence in identifying low-risk individuals who don't need as much attention or costly testing."
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