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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Cardiovascular Health Channel
Reported April 22, 2014

News From Your Heart

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Every 33 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease. That’s roughly the equivalent of a September 11th –like tragedy repeating itself every 24 hours, 365 days a year. Now, researchers are learning more about what puts you at risk.

About 80 million Americans are living with it and one million Americans die from heart disease each year. Cleveland Clinic Dr. Stanley Hazen is learning more about what puts you at risk.

“If it’s not your genes, it’s your environment and our biggest environment exposure is what we eat,” Stanley L. Hazen, MD, PhD, Cardiologist and Vice Chair of Research, Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, told Ivanhoe.

In a clinical study, Hazen and his team discovered that people who have more of a compound called TMAO in their blood are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience heart attack, stroke, or death.

“TMAO just stuck out like sore thumb as being highly correlated with future event risk,” Dr. Hazen said.

TMAO is produced when intestinal bacteria digest nutrients found in certain foods like meat. Hazen believes avoiding those foods and upping fiber intake can offset this link over time.

Hazen also found HDL cholesterol – often referred to as the “good cholesterol” –may not be so good after all. 

“Simply measuring how much cholesterol is in the HDL particle does not give us a good reflection of its role in protecting from heart disease,” Dr. Hazen explained.

The study showed dysfunctional HDL cholesterol in the artery wall actually contributed to heart disease.

“It’s the function of the particle that seems to be more important,” Dr. Hazen said.

Two new insights that could help researchers develop treatments for the number one killer in our country.

Dr. Hazen says there will likely be a TMAO blood test available in clinics around the country this year.  He says identifying this compound is the first step. The next  is to develop therapies to stop it – which may stop heart disease from forming.

For additional research on this article, click here.

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If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Emily Farr at


Andrea Pacetti
Media Relations Manager
The Cleveland Clinic


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