Fat hormone may help predict heart failure: study

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - High levels of a hormone made in fat cells may be a strong indicator of the onset of heart failure, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The hormone, called resistin, is known to bolster resistance to insulin in the blood. It is also linked with inflammation and some studies in rats suggest it might alter heart muscle function.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta wanted to see if the hormone could be used to predict which patients might be on the verge of developing heart failure, a debilitating disease in which the heart gradually loses its ability to pump blood efficiently, leaving organs starved for oxygen.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans have heart failure, a disease that is strongly associated with aging.

“This is one of the strongest predictors of new-onset heart failure we’ve been able to find,” said Dr. Javed Butler of Emory University School of Medicine, whose research was presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in New Orleans.

Butler and colleague Dr. Vasiliki Georgiopoulou analyzed the correlation between resistin and heart failure in a group of nearly 3,000 elderly people in Pittsburgh and Memphis who were in a large study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.

After about seven years, 252 participants or 8.7 percent of the group developed heart failure.

Those with the highest levels of resistin had 10 times the risk of developing heart failure as those with the lowest levels, Butler’s team found.

When they controlled for other risk factors such as markers for inflammation and insulin resistance, resistin still proved to be a strong predictor of heart failure.

“What that tells me is the strength of the relationship is fairly robust and is independent of all of these mechanisms,” Butler said in a telephone interview.

He said the hormone might prove useful in identifying which patients are most likely to develop heart failure, allowing doctors to focus efforts on reducing heart failure risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise and a rich diet.

Down the road, the finding may also be useful in developing therapies to prevent heart failure.

Currently, doctors have no such preventive drugs, only treatments to control symptoms.

They include ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor inhibitors, which dilate arteries and veins, making it easier for the heart to pump blood; beta blockers to slow the heart rate and control blood pressure, and diuretics to reduce swelling.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Vicki Allen)


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