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November 10, 2003
SKIN CHOLESTEROL INDICATES PRESENCE OF PLAQUE BUILD-UP IN THE HEART
The amount of cholesterol found in skin cells may be a good indicator of the presence of plaque build-up in the heart, a Johns Hopkins study shows.
Researchers looked at 222 healthy adults ages 45 to 84. They took blood samples from the participants and determined their level of coronary artery disease using helical computed tomography (CT) and other tests. They also measured the level of cholesterol in the participants' skin, using a simple dye test on the palm of the hand. The skin there changes color according to the level of cholesterol present.
The Hopkins team found that skin cholesterol was significantly correlated with the presence of early coronary artery disease, but was not associated with the level of blood cholesterol, a common unit of measure for heart disease.
"People who have low blood cholesterol think they're healthy, but some may have undetected heart disease," says Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., lead author and a postdoctoral cardiology fellow. "This test gives us an independent and early measure of the health of the heart."
The association between skin cholesterol and coronary artery disease was stronger among whites than African-Americans, Vaidya says, but at this point researchers don't know why.
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