In this medical video learn how a simple blood test gets heart failure patients on the path to a longer life.
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Jennifer Matthews: Cardiologist James Januzzi says treating heart failure patients is a tough challenge. Dr. James Januzzi: They may have very subtle symptoms, and you may not know that they are doing poorly. Jennifer Matthews: That makes it hard to know when to adjust medication. Dr. James Januzzi: It's nice to be able to know with an objective measure, like a blood test, that the patient is or is not stable. Jennifer Matthews: A blood test that measures a protein called proBNP could do that. The body releases it when the heart's in trouble. It can not only diagnose the disease Dr. James Januzzi: It also correlates with the magnitude of heart failure. So a person who is sicker has higher levels of pro-BNP. Jennifer Matthews: Dr. Januzzi is studying the test to treat heart failure patients aggressively. When Howard Lake was diagnosed, his proBNP level was 12,000 -- well above the cut-off limit of 1,000. Howard Lake: That was way out of line. It was much more than it should be. Jennifer Matthews: He gets his level checked every few weeks. Doctors adjust drug doses or even add more drugs to get the number lower. Dr. James Januzzi: We can really see a dramatic difference in the way that these patients are feeling compared to those people who are not getting pro-BNP-guided therapy. Jennifer Matthews: In seven months, Lake's number has steadily dropped from 12,000 to today's level of about 1,100. Dr. James Januzzi: So the fact that we have been able to ratchet his pro-BNP levels down with aggressive heart failure therapy, at least to me, suggests that his outcome is going to be much, much better. Jennifer Matthews: In fact, studies prove it. Levels below 1,000 reduce the risk of death within a year to almost zero. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.