A new blood test developed by University of Minnesota researchers could help doctors figure out which of their seemingly healthy patients are at highest risk for developing heart disease.
The test measures the amount of oxidation or damage on LDL particles that encase so-called "bad" cholesterol.
Principal investigator David Jacobs says damaged particles are more likely to get hung up on artery walls where they impede blood flow. He says people with the highest levels of oxidation in LDL particles had three-and-a-half times the risk of developing metabolic syndrome five years later.
"We didn't have people who were actually sick to look at, but we saw that the people who had this higher level of oxidized LDL tended to be moving a little further along the risk path with their metabolic syndrome," Jacobs said.
Metabolic syndrome predisposes people to heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.
Jacobs said the study did not determine what causes oxidation of LDL particles. But he says researchers believe smoking, diet and exercise levels are factors.