Blood tests are widely used to help doctors diagnose heart attacks after a patient experiences symptoms. Now researchers have found a more sensitive version of one blood test could predict the chances for heart attack or stroke years in advance of any signs of cardiovascular disease.
Once a heart is injured, it releases particular enzymes that doctors can test to confirm the presence of heart damage. The enzymes that are measured to see if a person is having a heart attack are called troponin T (TnT) and troponin I (TnI).
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas used a new test, called high-sensitivity troponin I test, to examine more than 15,000 middle-aged men and women to investigate the causes and clinical outcomes of atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries. Using data from the study, the researchers suggested that troponin I test could help predict the onset of cardiovascular issues in healthy middle-aged or older adults much earlier than current methods.
Physicians typically assess cardiovascular risk with family history, blood pressure, other diseases including diabetes, and history, as well as laboratory studies including cholesterol and inflammation markers.
The researchers examined a group of 8,121 people between 54 and 74 years old from the study who had no previous history of cardiovascular disease. Troponin levels were detected in almost 90 percent of them. According to the researchers, people showing no signs of heart disease with elevated troponin I levels were more likely to experience cardiac episodes such as, heart attacks, coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. The increased risk was found to be independent of other known risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes.
As you get middle-aged or older, biomarkers of cardiac injury, like troponin, are much better predictors than going by risk factors like cholesterol levels or blood pressure, which are much less informative past someone’s 60s and 70s, said the researchers.
The high-sensitivity troponin I test can detect even very low levels of this enzyme and could prove beneficial in detecting the risk of cardiovascular diseases, even years before the ailment is confirmed. The test is already approved in Europe to evaluate the risk of future cardiovascular events.