Blood test could predict risk of death from hypertension

The hematocrit, the percentage of red blood cells in the blood, is a common blood test carried out as part of a full blood count, and new research suggests that it could be used as a simple, low-cost and easily available biomarker to pick out those patients with high blood pressure who are at increased risk of an early death caused by the condition.

As part of the Glasgow Blood Pressure Clinic Study, 10,951 patients had their hematocrit measured, and then were followed up for up to 35 years. This showed that the people with high and low (but still "normal") hematocrit were at increased risk of dying, and that people with higher hematocrit at the first visit were more likely to develop high blood pressure during the follow-up period.

Sandosh Padmanabhan, a reader in the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, who led the study, said: "Finding new biomarkers that predict disease or risk is the holy grail for medical researchers. This study shows that there is valuable predictive information that can be obtained from blood tests that are routinely performed in out-patient clinics and primary care."

High blood pressure is one of the most common preventable causes of premature death in the West. Markers that can select out those people at highest risk could help doctors tailor risk-reduction treatment, including more aggressive lowering of blood pressure.

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- see the abstract