Jeff Meeusen, Ph.D., a clinical chemist and Co-Director of Cardiovascular Laboratory Medicine at Mayo Clinic, discussed Mayo Clinic's new blood test that helps combat the leading cause of death in the U.S. on Voice of America. Dr. Meeusen said that the test will determine who’s at risk for a heart attack or stroke, "and it seems to have a chance to determine who’s at risk, even accounting for current gold standard tests like LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol." LDL cholesterol is considered the "bad" cholesterol because it becomes part of plaque, the waxy stuff that can clog arteries.
Dr. Meeusen explained that when you start to have cardiovascular risk factors, the ceramide levels build up and then they can promote things like the LDL cholesterol crossing into the vascular wall. Once it’s there, he said, ceramides develop atheroscopic plaque, which causes hardening of the arteries.
The test could be used to help patients who have progressing coronary artery disease as well as to find out who is at risk for developing coronary artery disease.
"Our physicians are really embracing this new test," Dr. Meeusen said. "There’s been a need for tests that can help identify those people that are at higher risk, and they’re using this test among individuals that would otherwise seem to be at target, on track. They have good cholesterol. They don’t have too many other risk factors. And yet, if you have an elevated ceramide score, being able to prescribe a statin, or encourage that patient to exercise and diet, is going to prevent these events in the long run."