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THURSDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- An enzyme linked to inflammation boosts the risk of heart disease as much as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a new study suggests.
Researchers think that by targeting the enzyme, which is known as lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2, they may have another weapon to fight heart disease.
The enzyme is thought to be produced during inflammation, the body's immune response to damage and invaders. Its levels appear to be higher in people whose arteries are most affected by inflammation.
In the new study, researchers found links between presence of the enzyme and a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and death after examining the results of 32 studies involving 79,036 subjects.
They also discovered that the increased risk of heart disease was about as strong as that for people with high blood pressure and high bad (LDL) cholesterol. However, the researchers write that "because blood pressure and cholesterol themselves were not as strongly associated with heart disease in this study as has been reported previously," more research needs to be done to confirm the results.
Researchers hope future studies will give them more insight into whether manipulating levels of the enzyme will lower the risk of heart disease.
Meanwhile, they have already launched studies aimed at testing new drugs to block the enzyme.
The study, led by Dr. Alexander Thompson and Professor John Danesh of the University of Cambridge in England, is published in the April 30 issue of The Lancet.
For details about preventing heart disease, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.