CLEVELAND, Ohio — For decades, doctors have been putting tens of millions of Americans on drugs that lower their blood pressure and cholesterol. They have good reason to, experts say. People with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
But here’s something few patients know: Research shows that a large percentage of people who have a heart attack or stroke don’t have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
That fact sent a team of Cleveland Clinic researchers in search of a better predictor.
They found it in the enzyme myeloperoxidase.
Then two Decembers ago [Patti Piper of Spokane, Wash.] ran into a friend, Dr. Bradley Bale, at a Christmas party. He had been a neighbor in Spokane and Piper had worked as a receptionist for his family practice years earlier.
Bale mentioned Piper’s history of psoriasis, an inflammatory disease that’s been linked to heart disease, and her brother’s heart attack. He suggested she meet with his associate, Amy Doneen, to determine if Piper was at risk for a heart attack, too.
Bale and Doneen are cofounders of a company that teaches doctors and other health professionals how to prevent heart attack and stroke. They knew of the MPO test because they had done some consulting work for HeartLab, teaching other doctors how to use HeartLab’s test and preparing educational materials for patients.
Using ultrasound, Doneen, a nurse practitioner in Spokane, found plaque had built up in Piper’s carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain. To find out why, she tested her MPO levels.
Piper couldn’t believe the results.
A normal MPO level is less than 630. Piper’s was more than 1,000.
“I was just aghast,” Piper says. “I was truly aghast.”
Doneen asked her to cut back on the carbohydrates she loves and to continue exercising. And she prescribed vitamin B3 along with a baby aspirin, a blood pressure medication and a cholesterol-lowering drug to treat her arteriosclerosis — clogged arteries — and lower her risk of having a heart attack.