A blood test used to diagnose heart attacks could actually be used to predict them 15 years in advance, a study found. Damaged heart muscle leaks troponin into the blood stream and simple blood test for troponin in the patient’s blood could help diagnose the risk of heart attack in advance.
Results showed those with a high level of troponin at the start of the trial were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as someone with similar blood pressure and cholesterol.
Study leader Professor Nicholas Mills, from the University of Edinburgh said: “These results are tremendously exciting and could revolutionize the way we manage patients at risk of coronary heart disease.
“Whilst blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure are important and associated with the risk of developing heart disease, troponin is a direct measure of injury to the heart.”
“Troponin testing will help doctors to identify apparently healthy individuals who have ‘silent’ heart disease so we can target preventative treatments to those who are likely to benefit most.”
Patients currently considered to be at high risk of heart disease are often prescribed statins, which help to reduce levels of bad cholesterol. But researchers found statins also reduced troponin levels.
Prof David Newby, one of the authors of the study said: “Troponin is almost like a barometer of heart health. If it creeps up, that’s bad and your risk of heart problems increases. If it goes down, that’s good.”
So far, they have tested it only on men, but the British Heart Foundation-funded researchers say it should work in women too.
Before the findings from this research can be clinically applied, the usefulness of measuring troponin findings need to be demonstrated in a wider group of patients.
The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.