Every 33 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease. That is roughly the equivalent of a tragedy like September 11th repeating itself every 24 hours, 365 days a year.
Now, researchers are learning more about what puts us at risk. And it’s not always our genes.
About 80 million live with heart disease and about one million die from it every year.
Cleveland Clinic doctor Stanley Hazen is learning more about what puts someone at risk.
“If it’s not your genes, it’s your environment, and our biggest environment exposure is what we eat,” said Dr. Hazen.
In a clinical study, Dr. Hazen found that people who have more of a compound called TMAO in their blood are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke or death.
TMAO is produced when intestinal bacteria digest nutrients in certain foods like meat. Dr. Hazen believes avoiding those foods and upping fiber intake can help reduce it. He also found HDL cholesterol – often referred to as the “good cholesterol” – may not be so good after all.
The study showed dysfunctional HDL cholesterol actually contributes to heart disease.
Dr. Hazen believes a TMAO blood test will be available sometime this year. He said identifying this compound is the first step. The next step is to develop therapies to help stop it.