New Study Highlights Importance of Inflammation Marker
If you’ve taken part in the MDVIP Wellness Program, you may have had your blood tested for myeloperoxidase or MPO. It’s one of the tests that may be included when your doctor draws blood. MDVIP added this option so physicians would have an additional tool to better identify heart disease risk — elevated MPO levels are linked to heart attack risk.
Now, a new study from researchers at Quest Diagnostics, MDVIP, Harvard Medical School, Summa Health and the University of Florida indicates that MPO levels may predict mortality risk not just from cardiovascular disease but other causes as well. The study, published July 20, found that patients with high levels of MPO had a greater risk of death than those with low levels of MPO.
What is MPO?
MPO, a marker for chronic inflammation, is an enzyme present in white blood cells, which are part of our innate or inherited immune system. When an artery wall is damaged or inflamed, white blood cells rush into repair the damage to the artery wall surface.
Your artery walls can become thin, fissured and unstable due to cholesterol accumulation and inflammation. When your white blood cells or macrophages come to help, they release MPO, which is a powerful microbial fighter. Normally, MPO vigorously targets bacteria or viruses, but in your arteries, it can attack normal cholesterol particles. This changes the composition of the cholesterol, which can then get stuck in the arterial wall and cause inflammation.
This kind of cholesterol becomes plaque, and if that plaque ruptures, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Why test for MPO?
Your doctor may include an MPO blood test as part of your MDVIP Wellness Program to assist them in getting a better overall picture of certain cardiac risk factors. Simple lipid panels, which measure LDL, HDL and total cholesterol levels and are the most common blood test for heart disease risk, don’t tell the full risk story. In fact, more than half of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.
Inflammation is another important factor, and MPO is a cardiac inflammatory marker for heart disease risk. Using this approach can help identify 40 percent more people at risk for heart attack or stroke.
In particular, elevated MPO levels, according to Quest Diagnostics, can help:
• Predict the risk of heart disease in subgroups otherwise associated with low risk.
• Independently predict the risk of future cardiovascular events in patients presenting with an acute coronary syndrome.
• Indicate that you are more than twice as likely to experience cardiovascular mortality.
MPO may also suggest health risks beyond cardiovascular disease, according to the new study (full disclosure: I am one of the study’s authors). In the study, we found that elevated levels of MPO were linked to elevated risk of heart attack, stroke and all-cause mortality.
We’ve known for a long time that chronic inflammation is a significant indicator and contributor of disease risk, and that there is a link in the literature between high levels of inflammation and mortality, and low levels of inflammation and lower risk of death.
In our new study, lowering MPO levels lowered all-cause mortality risk. What does this mean for you? Systematic inflammation is dangerous, but there are steps you can take with your physician to help lower it, including lifestyle changes and better management of certain chronic conditions. Our study found that when patients in an MDVIP-affiliated practice lowered their MPO levels, their all-cause mortality risk was reduced by 5 percent over five years.
Of course, MPO is just one test that may be included as part of the MDVIP Wellness Program, which provides MDVIP-affiliated physicians advanced tools to better understand the overall health of their patients. And for patients, the program represents an opportunity to better improve their health, lower troubling numbers and reduce the risk for problematic outcomes.