Common Blood Tests: Predicting Chronic Disease

In a recent study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, researchers found a way to predict the future risk of diabetes or dementia, and other chronic diseases, through the combination of common blood test results.

Presented last week at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, the research indicates that a score based on a common blood test could—within three years of taking the test—help people gauge their risk of developing chronic diseases. The simple risk score, termed the Intermountain Chronic Disease Risk Score was 77-78 percent accurate in its predictions of the most common chronic diseases.

Based on a comprehensive metabolic panel, which includes tests for blood glucose and liver function coupled with a complete blood count that measures the quantity of different types of blood cells, this score could likely ultimately help physicians better allocate their time and resources. A patient whose score puts him/her in the high-risk group might receive more intensive patient education about lifestyle, or other preventive measures, with a follow-up visit in six months as opposed to a year.

The tests utilized to calculate the score are commonly performed at routine checkups, while the score itself can easily be calculated by the hospital’s electronic health record—making it easier for doctors to use, and at a low incremental expense. The potential benefits are enormous: enabling patients to lead healthier lives as they avoid, or proactively learn to manage chronic diseases; helping patients avoid serious complications that often result from unmanaged chronic diseases; and dramatically decreasing the costs of healthcare.

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