Could this £5 blood test predict a heart attack 15 years early? Scientists say it could help doctors spot high-risk patients
- When heart muscle is damaged it leaks a protein called troponin into the blood
- Testing for this protein can be used to detect the early signs of damage early
- The simple test would take just 30 minutes to deliver a result straight to doctors
- It would identify people who would benefit from cholesterol-busting statins
- It can also assess how well statins are working - and help find another treatment
Some 188,000 people have heart attacks in Britain each year, and nearly 70,000 die as a result.
Many of these cases are avoidable, with lifestyle factors - particularly drinking, smoking, diet and exercise - having an impact on roughly 85 per cent of cases.
Yet people tend not to take action until they start to suffer warning signs.
A blood test that detects troponin is already used in hospitals to quickly diagnose whether someone has had a heart attack.
But the new study, led by the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, suggests it the troponin test can also be used to detect the early signs of damage years before someone actually has an attack.
In a trial of 3,000 men with high cholesterol but no history of heart disease, the team found high troponin levels accurately predicted the risk of a person suffering a heart attack up to 15 years later.
Those who tested positive for high troponin levels were 2.3 times more likely to have a heart attack, the researchers found.
But the results, published last night in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, also reinforced the use of statins as a treatment for heart disease.
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