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New test predicts heart disease in 'healthy' people

heart test Simple blood test

A new blood test has been developed which can detect heart disease in people who appear to be healthy.

The test, which detects low levels of a protein known as cardiac troponin T (cTnT) in the blood, is a more sensitive version of another test which is used to confirm whether someone has experienced a heart attack.

However, US researchers say the more sensitive test can detect circulating cTnT levels in almost everyone with chronic heart failure and chronic coronary artery disease.

They used the new test to screen blood samples taken from more than 3,500 people aged between 30 and 65. The volunteers also underwent multiple body scans to examine the heart and other organs, and were tracked for seven years to establish the cause of death.

Troponin T protein was detected in around 25 per cent of seemingly healthy people without any symptoms of heart disease. Normally the standard version of the test detects troponin T in around one per cent of people.

The study also found that people with detectable levels of troponin T in their blood were nearly seven times more likely to die within six years from heart disease.

Older adults, males, African-Americans and people with abnormal thickening or weakness of the heart muscles had the highest levels of cTnT.

"This test is among the most powerful predictors of death in the general population we've seen so far," said Dr James de Lemos, associate professor of internal medicine at Southwestern Medical Centre, University of Texas, who led the study.

"It appears that the higher your troponin T, the more likely you are to have problems with your heart, and the worse you're going to do, regardless of your other risk factors."

"Because this test seems to identify cardiovascular problems that were previously unrecognised, we hope in the future to be able to use it to prevent some death and disability from heart failure and other cardiac diseases," Dr de Lemos added.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This article was published on Wed 8 December 2010

Image © Cecilia Lim - Fotolia.com

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