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NT-ProBNP: The “Happy Heart” Test to Predict Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

Is your heart happy? While that’s a question you’ve probably pondered on an emotional level, and felt reassured about your psychological well-being if the answer was positive, most people don’t know that it’s also important to find out how if their heart is happy from the physical standpoint. That’s right, there is a simple, FDA-approved blood test that can literally quantify how “happy” your heart is!

Not only can the “happy heart test,” medically known as NT-ProBNP, accurately predict risk for heart attack and stroke in people who seem otherwise healthy, but it can reveal which ones may be headed for heart failure, atrial fibrillation or other cardiovascular disorders, according to a new study published in Circulation. Here’s a closer look at the study findings–and why the BaleDoneen Method recommends this test as an important part of your heart-attack-and-stroke-prevention plan.

What does the NT-ProBNP test measure?

The NT-ProBNP test measures the amount of a neurohormone called B-type naturetic peptide (BNP) in a sample of the patient’s blood. If the heart is under stress or struggling to function properly, it releases higher amounts of BNP. Basically a SOS message that the heart is in distress, naturetic peptides cause the body to excrete more fluid, reducing the amount that the heart has to pump with each beat. These peptides also widen blood vessels, lowering the force required to circulate blood. Both of these effects reduce a struggling heart’s workload.

What did the study show? The researchers analyzed health data from nearly 9,000 men and women of diverse ethnicities who were initially free of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading killer of American men and women. At the start of the study, all participants had five blood and imaging tests: a 12-lead electrocardiogram, a coronary calcium scan, and blood tests to measure levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), troponin T and NT-ProBNP.

During a decade of follow-up, participants’ initial test results were compared with their rates of a variety of CV problems, including fatal or non-fatal heart attacks and strokes, heart failure (HF), atrial fibrillation (a dangerous heart rhythm irregularity that raises risk for stroke, dementia, HF, and premature death, if untreated), medical procedures to reopen obstructed heart or peripheral (leg) arteries, and death from CV causes, with the following findings:

• Compared to people who scored normally on all five tests, those with one abnormal result were nearly twice as likely to suffer CV problems.
• Two abnormal test results tripled risk for heart problems, three abnormal results quadrupled it, and four or more abnormal results raised it 7.5 fold.
• Each test studied, except hs-CRP (a measure of inflammation), independently predict multiple aspects of CV risk, even after such risk factors as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, and the person’s age, gender and ethnicity were taken into account.

How do these tests improve on traditional ways of checking for heart risk?

Including the results from these five tests dramatically improve CV risk prediction. In the study, nearly half of the participants were reclassified as being at higher or lower risk than predictions based on solely on traditional risk calculators, such as the well-known Framingham Risk Score, which has been shown to be highly unreliable in a number of previous studies. The researchers also report that there is solid scientific evidence that risk for ALL of the heart problems studied can be greatly reduced with appropriate preventive care.

What are the key BaleDoneen takeaways from this study?

The study substantiates the BaleDoneen Method approach to heart attack and stroke prevention in several ways. It found that NT-ProBNP levels of 100 pg/mL or higher are independent predictors of risk for multiple CVD events. This blood test is routinely used by the BaleDoneen method to check for CV risk, along other lab and imaging tests to directly check each patient for signs of CVD, a disease that often develops silently over decades until it becomes severe enough to trigger a heart attack or stroke, if it goes untreated.

Other research suggests that if your level of NT-ProBNP is below 125 pg/mL there is a 98% probability that your heart is very happy! How worried should you be if your level is higher than that? In that case, there is 33% probability that your heart is not totally happy and is experiencing some degree of dysfunction. Discuss your test results and next steps with your healthcare provider.

Bottom line: the BaleDoneen Method includes all of these tests used in the study, plus leading-edge genetic testing to improve risk assessment and guide personalized care, including a diet based on your DNA. We congratulate Dr. de Lemons and his team for publishing this excellent study, which will enhance CV risk prediction, allowing more people to receive preventive care. Their research will help hasten our mission to remove CVD from the top of the list of leading causes of death and disability. Early detection and optimal preventive care are the keys to saving lives and hearts!

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