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The Making of Medicine

A Little-Appreciated Risk for Heart Attacks and Stroke

Fascinating article in the New York Times today about a significant risk factor for heart attacks and strokes that doctors are only now beginning to appreciate.

For a long time, doctors have been baffled by the large number of apparently healthy people, people without risk factors such as smoking or high blood pressure, who still fall prey to heart attacks and strokes. In fine phrasing, the Times describes it thusly: “To some researchers, this hidden risk is the dark matter of cardiology: an invisible but omnipresent force that lands tens of thousands of patients in the hospital each year.”

Now, the article tells us, researchers believe there is a hidden risk factor: a build-up of mutated stem cells in the bone marrow called “clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential.” This build-up increases the risk of death within a decade by up to 50 percent.

Even more alarming is this quote from our Kenneth Walsh, MD: “It is beginning to appear that there are only two types of people in the world: those that exhibit clonal hematopoiesis and those that are going to develop clonal hematopoiesis.”

For more, check out the full article.


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