The researchers in the Health ABC (Aging and Body Composition) study analysed 3000 elderly people in the Pittsburgh and Memphis areas over seven years starting in 1998.
"This is one of the strongest predictors of new-onset heart failure we've been able to find, and it holds up even when you control for other biomarkers and risk factors including high blood pressure and diabetes," said Javed Butler, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of heart failure research at Emory University School of Medicine.
While the exact function of resistin is unknown, the scientists believe that it is linked with both inflammation and insulin resistance, said Vasiliki Georgiopoulou, MD, a post-doctoral research fellow with Butler.
"Recent laboratory studies have also shown that resistin decreases the ability of rats' heart muscles to contract," she added.
In the study, the risk of new onset heart failure was found to increase by 38 percent for every 10 nanograms per milliliter increase in resistin levels in blood.
It was found that resistin was a stronger predictor of heart failure risk than other inflammatory markers linked to heart disease, such as C-reactive protein.
"Considering the increasing number of people who are obese or have diabetes, very many of them are going to be at some level of risk for heart failure later in life. The value of a marker such as resistin may be in accurately identifying among this large population of at-risk individuals who is at the highest risk and then targeting interventions to those people," said Butler.
The findings of the study were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions conference in New Orleans.