Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. While there have been great strides in preventing it, the hardest part has been figuring out who is at high risk, especially since men and women often have different symptoms. Now, a new sex-specific blood test is helping answer that.
Whether challenging herself to a game of ping pong or taking her dog "puppy" out for a walk, Mandy Welsheimer tries to stay active, especially since she has a family history of heart disease.
"Both my grandfathers had coronary artery disease. One died of a heart attack when he was 56, and the other one ended up with a pacemaker," Welsheimer said.
When she began to have chest pain, she decided to take a first of its kind blood test to determine her risk.
"This test actually looks at what’s going on right now at the molecular level in your particular body and then can tell us what your chance of having a problem is right now," said Dr. Alan Grossman, medical director of non-invasive cardiology at the Heart and Vascular Center of Arizona.
The Corus CAD test works by measuring the activity of 23 genes in your blood that change when there's a blockage in the arteries. The test comes up with a score indicating your likelihood of a blockage and is the first to be sex-specific. Two multi-center trials found it more accurate than the current standard, nuclear stress testing, with a 96 percent negative predictive value versus 88 percent, meaning if the test says you don’t have CAD, there's a 96 percent chance you don’t have a major blockage.
"It certainly is a huge relief for a lot of patients," Grossman explained.
Welsheimer's score came back low.
"It put my mind at ease," she said.
Grossman said the new test can help doctors decide if invasive approaches are necessary for patients. The test is currently covered under Medicare.