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Researchers Pin Down Biomarkers That Could Speed Up Detection Of Heart Problems

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New research identified biomarkers that could predict atrial fibrillation or AF. Through blood testing, doctors can screen patients for the heart condition and, therefore, reduce the risk of stroke.   ( Hamilton Viana Viana | Pixabay )

Researchers from the United Kingdom have identified biomarkers that could help diagnose atrial fibrillation or AF, a heart condition that raises the risk of stroke.

In a study, researchers from the University of Birmingham linked a hormone and a protein to AF. The British Heart Foundation says that this could lead to early detection and better treatment for the heart condition.

The study was published in the European Heart Journal.

What Is Atrial Fibrillation

AF is the most common type of arrhythmia. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2.7 million to 6.1 million people in the United States have the condition. It affects about 9 percent of the population aged 65 years old and above.

The most common symptom of AF is an irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations. Other symptoms associated with the condition are lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

The of AF comes with advancing age, but people who have diabetes or are overweight/obese might also develop the condition. Those who have AF are four to five times more likely to experience a stroke compared to those who do not have AF.

Biomarkers Of Atrial Fibrillation

However, scientists have identified two biomarkers that could help diagnose patients who have AF and, therefore, reduce the risk of stroke.

"People with atrial fibrillation are much more likely to develop blood clots and suffer from strokes," stated Winnie Chua, the first author of the study. "To avoid strokes it is important for them to take anticoagulant drugs to prevent blood clotting. However, atrial fibrillation is often only diagnosed after a patient has suffered a stroke."

To screen for AF, doctors could test the patient's blood to see if they have elevated levels of brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), a hormone secreted by the heart, and fibroblast growth factor-23 (FGF-23), a protein responsible for the regulation of phosphate in the body.

The researchers found the AF biomarkers after they looked at 40 common cardiovascular biomarkers from 638 patients using both traditional statistical analysis and machine learning techniques. The study also identified three clinical risks associated with AF: advanced age, male, and a high Body Mass Index or BMI.

Until now, an electrocardiogram or ECG test has been the only way to measure the electrical activity of the heart which can feel burdensome for the patient. The researchers hope that the identification of the biomarkers associated with AF could lead to predicting the heart condition.

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