Doctors can already often predict how long someone will live based on their habits, and sometimes, their genes. Depending on how sick someone is, they may even be able to predict when someone will die within a year. However, these approaches are not always accurate. Additionally, scientists want tests which will give physicians more years to treat sick patients before their conditions become irreversible. It turns out that blood tests may be a new way to pinpoint lifespans early enough to still help people get better.
A new scientific study published in Nature Communications looked at mortality risks in 44,168 people. The people’s age range was from 18 to 109. The authors found 14 biomarkers which circulate in the blood. National Institutes of Health Biomarkers Definitions Working Group defines biomarkers as “objective, quantifiable characteristics of biological processes.” The authors of the Nature Communications paper wrote that tests for these biomarkers may allow doctors to predict the risk of the time when a patient may die to a period which spans five to 10 years. This gives physicians advanced time to treat patients at risk for serious diseases and conditions later in life.
A description of the findings in Medical Daily pointed to the importance of the new research. “For instance, they [doctors] would be able to ascertain if an older adult is healthy enough to have surgery, or help identify those in most need of medical intervention.” The biomarker tools may take lifespan prediction well beyond what are now basic blood tests, blood pressure tests, and cholesterol levels which the authors pointed out have varying value as patients get older. The biomarker tests should be more accurate because they look at many more factors which range from “histidine, leucine, and valine to glucose, lactate, and phenylalanine.” Some of these are markers of longer life, while others point to shorter lifespans. As a reference, these are the states where people live the longest.
The conclusion of the authors give a reason for optimism about the future of blood tests and their ability to predict health.
“A score based on these 14 biomarkers and sex leads to improved risk prediction as compared [with] a score based on conventional risk factors,” they wrote. However, as is almost always true with such studies, they also said much more research is needed to confirm their conclusions, at least enough for them to be useful in clinical practice.