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Protein tied to raised heart failure risk

September 4, 2012

Heart failure is one of the greatest health issues facing older adults, and a recent study found one way to identify those who may be at the greatest risk. A government-led study found that a certain protein, known as galectin-3, can help doctors pinpoint who is most likely to experience heart failure as they get older.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and focused on more than 3,350 adults enrolled in a heart study. Scientists measured the level of galectin-3 in the subjects and found a distinctly higher rate of heart failure events in those with raised levels of the protein.

Specifically, in the 25 percent of people who had the highest amount of the protein, the rate of heart failure was about 12 in 1,000. In the 25 percent of people who had the lowest levels, the rate fell to around 3 in 1,000.

"Galectin-3 is associated with cardiac fibrosis, which plays an important role in the development of heart failure, so it may be useful in identifying patients at high risk for heart failure prior to the onset of symptoms and could point the way to earlier prevention and treatment strategies," said Dr. Daniel Levy, director of Framingham Heart Study at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The research highlights the importance of preventing heart failure. Older adults have many options at their disposal for lowering their risk, and many of them are common facets of a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

For instance, regular exercise is arguably the best method available. Staying physically active helps eliminate many risk factors for heart failure by helping seniors control their weight, blood pressure and stress levels. According to WebMD, about two and a half hours a week of moderate physical activity is best.