A common blood test for heart disease could be used to predict the risk for having a second stroke, scientists say. Scientists have linked high levels of C-Reactive Protein, an enzyme found in the blood, with increased risk for recurrent ischemic stroke.
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is produced in the liver in response to inflammation, and it is already checked to measure people’s risk of developing coronary artery disease. The new research suggests it could be a useful tool for ischemic stroke patients as well.
“The biggest risk of death for someone who has already had a stroke is to have another one,” said Stephen Williams from University of Virginia in the US.
“So it is really important to be able to try and target those individuals who are at the highest risk for the thing that very well may kill them,” said Williams.
Ischemic strokes result from blockages preventing blood flow to the brain and are responsible for approximately 85 per cent of all stroke cases.
Researchers set out to determine how our genes affect the levels of biomarkers such as CRP in our blood. Not only did they find that elevated CRP levels suggest increased stroke risk, they identified gene variations that drive those risks.
“So we have the genetics influencing (CRP) levels, which then increases the risk of having a recurrent stroke. Then we went back and said alright, can we predict the increased risk purely based on the genetics, which we were able to do,” said Williams.
“There is this shared genetic susceptibility not only for increased C-Reactive Protein but for increased risk for stroke. We could estimate what is called a hazard ratio - basically the increased risk for having or not having a second stroke - based on the genetics,” he said.
Even CRP levels alone could be a useful tool in assessing risk after the initial stroke, researchers said. “Getting a CRP measure on someone is really simple. It is just a blood draw. You do not have to take something like a biopsy which patients might have an aversion to,” said Williams.