The risk of elderly people having a heart attack within the next decade can be predicted by a blood test, according to American Scientists.
Researchers from the University of Vermont have discovered that a heightened level of 'C-reactive' protein (CRP) is an independent risk factor for an elderly person developing heart disease.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, said the test for CRP could provide useful information beyond standard risk assessment in the elderly population.
The team followed almost 4,000 men and women over 65 years or older, who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study - an observational study investigating risk factors.
Patients underwent tests to determine blood CRP levels and 26 per cent showed elevated levels, defined as levels greater three milligrams per litre (mg/L).
During the follow up period of ten years, 547 of those patients suffered a heart attack or died from coronary heart disease.
Lead researcher Dr Mary Cushman said: "Elderly men and women who had elevated blood CRP had a 45 percent increase in their risk of developing coronary heart disease."