Simple blood test could spot patients most at risk of dying from heart failure, study suggests

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Experts suggest measuring levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) in patients 

A simple blood test could help identify patients who are at the most immediate risk of dying from heart failure, a study suggests.

Those with highest levels of a specific protein were 50 per cent more likely to die from a heart complication over the three-year study period, compared to those with lower levels.

Experts said the findings suggest measuring levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) could help predict how heart failure is likely to progress.

This could then be used to identify those most at risk and tailor treatments to slow the deadly disease, which occurs when the heart cannot pump blood around the body as well as it should.

More than one million people are currently estimated to be living with heart failure in the UK, with around 200,000 new diagnoses each year.

A simple blood test could help identify patients who are at the most immediate risk of dying from heart failure, a study suggests (Stock Image)

Experts said the findings suggest measuring levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) could help predict how heart failure is likely to progress (Stock Image)

Experts said the findings suggest measuring levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) could help predict how heart failure is likely to progress (Stock Image)

Oxford University researchers used study data from more than 800 adults at different stages of heart failure. The results were published in the European Journal of Heart Failure.

The subjects were measured for levels of natriuretic peptide (BNP), a hormone currently used to diagnose heart failure, alongside NPY. 

Nerves in the heart release NPY in response to extreme stress, which can trigger dangerous heart rhythms. 

This can cause the smallest blood vessels in the heart muscle to close up, making the heart work harder and causing blood vessels going to the heart to contract.

Scientists found around a third of the group had high levels of NPY and were 50 per cent more likely to die from a heart complication during the three-year follow-up period.

They suggest that measuring NPY alongside BNP could be used to help diagnose those in the most immediate danger. 

This would allow doctors to decide who could benefit from treatments such as an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) which detects and stops irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias.

Neil Herring, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The findings of this research are an exciting new development.

Next, we will investigate whether measuring for very high levels neuropeptide Y could influence whether patients can get life-saving treatment like ICDs.’ He added that the blood tests could be introduced within five years.

The British Heart Foundation said: ‘This new research suggests that a new, cheap and simple blood test, could help us in future to more accurately spot which patients with heart failure are at highest risk of early death.’

Oxford University

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