Bill Bradford: A simple blood test might have saved Mary’s lifePublished 11:09am Thursday, August 27, 2009
She was one of seven children born to a good mother, then widowed, and having a hard time financially.
Mary was 16 years of age, vivacious and full of energy, but with that common-sense-no-nonsense attitude that went over well with our children.
We were shocked when she suffered a fatal heart attack and was suddenly gone.
In the not-so-distant past there was no very good way for the medical profession to quantitate an individual’s risk of having a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
We could cite lifestyle risk factors such as tobacco use, high levels of lipids in the blood, diabetes or a sedentary way of life.
But that did not tell us whether the person was or was not at high risk for that potentially crippling or fatal myocardial infarction.
That frustrating inability to quantitate the risk has now been somewhat remedied by the high sensitivity C-reactive Protein (CRP) blood test.
Please do not get turned off by that long name.
We’ll just call it CRP for now.
CRP is a protein made by the liver in response to inflammation that may trigger clotting of the blood.
If a blood clot formed in the vascular system breaks loose and plugs an artery of the heart, then the part of the heart muscle nourished by that artery may die.
When there is no blood flow, then there is no oxygen or nutrients.
We call that event a heart attack or myocardial infarct.
We have learned to measure CRP in the blood and to classify its amount in terms of risk for heart attack.
If Mary had had a CRP test done on her blood prior to her heart attack, her life might have been saved by prescription medication which could have reduced the inflammatory process.
Her unfortunate event happened at a time when statins had not yet become available.
At the present time, many physicians would prescribe aspirin and a statin such as Zocor to combat that dangerous inflammatory process.
In January of this year I was asked to supervise the drawing of blood for CRP testing of 98 individuals.
When the results came back, 20 of those people had CRP levels which indicated that they were at high risk for a myocardial infarct.
Ten of those individuals were 50 years of age or younger.
One was a 40-year-old male.
Another was a 23-year-old female.
At the present time I am working with a not-for-profit organization to determine whether we can make CRP testing available to the people of this area at little or no cost.
Bill Bradford retired to the rigors of a small farm in Pokagon Township.
He has served as director of clinical laboratories in physician group practices and hospitals. For a decade he was an educator in clinical laboratory sciences at Andrews University.