If current research findings prove correct, doctors may one day attack heart disease in blacks through early treatment of inflammation, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and reported in a press release from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis).

During the study, researchers found that a blood component called lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2), which is connected to inflammation, can predict coronary artery disease (CAD) in African Americans.  

CAD is a cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries and interferes with the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

For the study, scientists calculated the blood levels of Lp-PLA2 present in 336 white and 224 black high-risk heart disease patients about to be tested for CAD at two New York hospitals.

Researchers found that both blacks and whites with CAD showed elevated Lp-PLA2 activity, but the lipoprotein was a biological indicator of the heart condition only in African Americans.

“This study suggests that inflammation may be a more important mechanism in heart disease for African Americans than it is for Caucasians, and [the study] increases our growing understanding of how heart-disease processes vary in different ethnic groups,” said Lars Berglund, MD, PhD, the associate dean for research at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the senior author of the study.

But it’s too early to start widespread population group testing and making treatment decisions based on this study, Berglund cautioned.

What’s most important about the study, Berglund emphasized, is that doctors take into account their heart patients’ racial differences in order to better customize their treatment and prevention programs.

Read RH’s “The Bad Side of ‘Good’ Cholesterol” for more about inflammation-related proteins produced by high-risk heart patients.