Physicians and scientists at Penn Medicine are combining the power of new diagnostic tools and advanced research to help patients learn about their cardiovascular health and prevent disease. This month – celebrated as American Heart Month by health professionals across the country – is the perfect time to highlight some of these efforts and the importance of awareness and prevention of heart disease.
As heart disease is the number one killer in America, understanding the risks and taking the right preventive steps for those who are at risk is critically important. New research released this week from the CDC shows that most Americans are not doing enough to control their high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two major contributors to heart disease, despite access to low-cost, effective treatments.
For patients who have some risk factors, Penn Medicine is now taking prevention a step further by offering a personalized genetic test to determine if they are at greater genetic risk for heart disease. The new test will identify eight potential warning signs in patients’ DNA. Knowing helps doctors develop prevention plans tailored to the individual's needs.
Daniel J. Rader, MD, director of Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine and Lipid Clinic at Penn Medicine recently discussed this new test in a news interview.
“This test gives us increased information about the probability of developing a very serious potentially fatal disease and allows us to tailor our therapies more specifically to that individual based on their genetic makeup,” said Dr. Rader.
In addition to offering new diagnostic tools to detect heart disease, Dr. Rader and colleagues at Penn are actively conducting research to unravel the role and function of cholesterol in cardiovascular health. They recently published new research that shows that a new metric, a measure of HDL function called cholesterol efflux capacity, is more closely associated with protection against heart disease than HDL cholesterol levels. Findings from the study could lead to new therapeutic interventions in the fight against heart disease.
Digging deeper into the genetic underpinnings of heart disease, another new study from Muredach P. Reilly, MBBCH, MSCE, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, and colleagues at Penn identified certain genetic profiles that increase both risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and risk of heart attacks in those with CAD. This new research also discovered that blood group O offers protection from heart attacks.
Additionally, Thomas P. Cappola, MD, ScM, assistant professor of Medicine, and colleagues published research that has identified a common, functionally significant genetic risk factor for Caucasian heart failure.
These new findings, and hundreds of other research projects that are being conducted on a daily basis at the University of Pennsylvania Cardiovascular Institute (Penn CVI), contribute to an overall goal at Penn to translate discoveries in cardiovascular science and technology into innovative strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat and ultimately cure cardiovascular diseases.
Combining advances in medical research and raising the general public’s awareness of the risk factors for developing heart disease is a crucial step to reduce the burden of heart disease in the U.S. and globally.
Stay tuned throughout the month of February for additional heart health news and information from Penn Medicine experts.