Protein Levels Reflect Heart Problems

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Urine levels of a common blood protein may be an early sign of heart disease in postmenopausal women, say researchers in the Netherlands. They measured levels of the protein albumin in urine samples from 1,118 healthy postmenopausal women who were followed for up to 18 years. In women with the highest urine albumin levels, the rate of death from heart and blood vessel disease was more than 4 times higher than that of women with no detectable levels of albumin in their urine. Normally there should be no albumin in the urine, says Dr. Jan Dirk Banga, one of the investigators. The presence of this protein suggests a possible malfunction of the blood vessels in the kidneys. That, in turn, may reflect blood vessel damage due to heart disease at an early stage, before any symptoms occur, and could be a marker for the disease. While routine urinary analysis will never be able to predict cardiac death in an individual, he says, "it may predict an increased risk."