Simple Test Reveals Risk of Stroke

For the first time doctors can now perform a simple blood test to detect the risk of stroke in their patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the test after a Houston study showed the test is useful in detecting a certain enzyme that is linked to stroke victims.

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Physicians know what the risk factors are for a heart attack or stroke, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are all factors. With heart attacks the level of bad cholesteral is a useful indicator of a patient's risk. But Dr. Christie Ballantyne, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center, says current guidelines for screening and prevention of heart disease don't include risk for stroke because until now there was no scientific way to determine a patient's risk.

The PLAC test is a relatively new test that was developed to predict the risk for coronary heart disease. But Dr. Ballantyne conducted a study on middle-aged individuals and found the simple blood test could be used independently to measure the enzyme levels connected with stroke.

Ballantyne says it all comes down to the growing interest in preventive medicine. It can be difficult for doctors to convince their patients to eat right and exercise more, but the PLAC test becomes another tool to emphasize the need for altering lifestyles.

The PLAC test is available through several major labs. Most physicians should be able to administer the test to their patients at local offices and clinics.

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