Liver Test May Predict Heart Trouble

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An elevated blood level of an enzyme produced by liver damage
also appears to predict the risk of heart disease and stroke.

In a recent study, researchers report that men with even
moderately high levels of the enzyme gamma-glutamyl transferase
(GGT) were at a 28% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular
disease than were those with low levels. For men with the highest
levels, the risk was 68% greater. In women, the increase in risk
ranged from 35% to 51%.

A follow-up of more than 11 years found that an elevated GGT
level was a better predictor of cardiovascular death than high
levels of blood sugar and cholesterol, but not as good a
predictor as smoking and high blood pressure.

A blood test for GGT is widely used to monitor liver function.
For example, many doctors give this lab test routinely to people
who take cholesterol-lowering statins, where liver damage is a
possible side effect. The GGT test is commonly included in a
blood chemistry panel.

There are two possible reasons why GGT is a marker for
cardiovascular disease. First, it is an indicator of general
damage to the arteries. Second, it could indicate the damage done
to blood vessels by excessive drinking.

Some doctors may overlook a “high normal” or mildly elevated GGT
on a blood chemistry panel. This study suggests your GGT test
value should be evaluated along with cholesterol and other
markers of cardiovascular health.

When you have any blood test, always get a copy for your personal
records. If you notice that GGT or any other test value is
elevated, always ask your doctor about it — or bring your blood
test report with you the next time you visit our clinic. We will
be happy to review it with you.

Source: Ruttmann, E et al, Gamma-glutamyltransferase as a risk
factor for cardiovascular disease mortality: an epidemiological
investigation in a cohort of 163,944 Austrian adults.
Circulation. 2005 Oct 4;112(14):2130-7