Protein blood test could help predict stroke risk in people with diabetes

A simple blood test could help predict whether someone with diabetes is at risk of having a stroke, according to researchers.

US scientists have identified elevated levels of a protein in the blood of people with diabetes which could indicate stroke risk.

Because people with diabetes are more at risk of stroke than those without the condition, the findings and recommendations by the US research team could be significant. People with diabetes can reduce their stroke risk by eating a healthy diet, keeping blood glucose levels under control and getting regular exercise.

The US team from Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, wanted to investigate whether there was a more accurate way to predict whether someone was on the verge of having a stroke.

Study author Frederick Korley, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine, said: “To be successful at preventing strokes from occurring, we first need to accurately identify those who are likely to have a stroke so we can target stroke prevention therapies to the correct at-risk people.”

The trial involved measuring blood protein levels in 363 people with diabetes who had never experienced a stroke before. Seven years later they followed up with the same people and discovered 113 had experienced a stroke.

Of those who had experienced an incident, the research team discovered they had 43 per cent higher levels of a specific protein called neurofilament light chain (NfL) in their blood.

The researchers used the Framingham Stroke Risk test in the study, which is commonly used to assess someone’s stroke risk. It combines the age, sex and various other factors such as blood pressure to predict whether a stroke may be imminent. The researchers now think their NfL test should be incorporated into the current risk assessment.

Prof Korley said: “As an emergency physician, I see patients after they have experienced a stroke, and for some patients, the options for treating them at that time point are limited.

“If our findings hold true in other study populations, physicians could use this test to monitor patients and target stroke prevention treatments to the right at-risk people to hopefully help them avoid a stroke from ever happening.”

The study findings have been published in the journal Stroke.

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