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Using a simple blood test to predict a second stroke

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June 22nd, 2016

Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that a simple blood test combined with genetic information could identify people at increased risk of having a second ischemic stroke. 

The American Stroke Association reports that about 795,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke, and 129,000 die. About 85% of these strokes are ischemic strokes, which occur when a clot blocks blood flow (and thus oxygen) to the brain. Less common are hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when blood vessels in the brain rupture and bleed.

The researchers discovered that an enzyme routinely measured to assess coronary heart disease risk called c-reactive protein (CRP) is higher in people at increased risk of a second stroke. In addition, the team identified genetic variations that are associated with higher CRP levels. Further testing revealed that those same genes were also associated with an increased risk of stroke. 

The lead author, Stephen Williams, Ph.D., says that the biggest risk of death for someone who has had one stroke is to have a second one. Testing CRP levels alone could be useful in predicting risk of stroke, but perhaps in the future, doctors will rely on a patient’s genetic makeup along with CRP to accurately identify people with a higher risk of a second stroke.

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