Predicting bad hearts

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease.

"Fully half of the people that are going to die in America are going to die of cardiovascular disease," said Jeffrey M. Schussler, MD, Cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.

"That's what made it really exciting for us because it was a totally unexpected finding," explained Caren Swift, RN, Research Nurse at Baylor Research Institute.

While attempting to identify patients with a rare condition known as fabry disease, the investigators found the marker they were studying, GB3, was more common in people with heart disease.

"The higher the level of GB3 in the urine, the higher the risk of death," said Raphael Schiffmann, MD, Institute for Metabolic Diseases at Baylor Research Institute.

Because it's found in the urine, it could one day be a simple way to test for patients who are at risk of heart disease. Catherine Traweek participated in the study. She didn't have heart disease, but she found she was a carrier for fabry.

"The more you know, the better off you are as far as your health is concerned," Traweek said.

The investigators say they plan on studying the GB3 biomarker more to see if it will be a more accurate predictor than current methods, like stress tests.

Channel 4 wants to remind everybody to take our "Take it to Heart" challenge.

  1. Step 1 of the challenge teaches you the symptoms of heart disease, and also the symptoms that are unique to women.  One in three women die from heart disease or stroke.
  2. Step 2 of the challenge helps you find your risk factors based on your health and diet.
  3. Step 3 of the challenge is to stop smoking. The challenge has information on how to break the habit.      
  4. Then the last step of the challenge is to begin moderate exercise. The goal is to exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day.

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