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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Test spots heart danger in women
The test could predict heart risk
A routine urine test could pick out older women who are at risk of heart disease.

Women have a lower risk of heart disease than men up until the menopause, when they begin to catch up.

Women who smoke, have high blood pressure and who have high cholesterol levels are all known to be at increased risk.

It may predict an increased risk

Dr Jan Banga, study author
However, there are currently no ways of detecting which women are deteriorating without symptoms and may need treatment.

The new test, developed by Dutch scientists, claims to detect a body chemical which is a sign of early blood vessel damage.

The chemical is albumin - diabetics are already tested for it, as high levels could predict kidney or heart problems.

The team from the University Medical Center in Utrecht looked at more than 1,000 samples of urine taken in the 1970s from apparently healthy postmenopausal women.

Medical records were checked to see which of them had died from cardiovascular problems.

Malfunctioning cells

They found that the 20% of women who had the highest levels of albumin were 4.4 times more likely to die this way.

The theory suggests that, although no physical symptoms are felt, malfunctioning cells lining the inside of blood vessels are releasing the excess albumin.

The malfunctioning of these cells may assist the hardening of arteries which leads to heart disease.

Dr Jan Banga, who led the study, said: "A routine urinary analysis will never be able to predict cardiac death in an individual, but it may predict an increased risk."

More research planned

More research is now planned to see whether treatment, if it manages to reduce the albumin level in urine, is ultimately successful in preventing heart deaths.

Dr Banga said: "We know from studying people with diabetes that we can reduce microalbuminuria (the increased albumin level) with ACE inhibitors and that this may help protect them.

"We also know that if we lower high blood pressure, we can reduce the degree of microalbuminuria and reduce cardiovascular risk."

The study was reported in the journal Circulation.

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17 Apr 01 | Health
Heart disease cause pinpointed
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