In the near future, finding out your risk for heart attack or stroke could be as easy as getting a blood test. According to a new study, this blood test already exists and could change the way we look at health.
The test is currently being used in hospitals to help medical staff diagnose heart attacks in people who come in exhibiting chest pains or other symptoms. The simple blood test involves analyzing blood samples for specific proteins released by the heart muscle when damaged.
The findings of the new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation showed that researchers were able to detect very low levels of a protein called troponin. These protein levels, when shown in middle-aged adults, could help to predict risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
The study’s senior author and cardiology chief at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Dr. Christie Ballantyne, said, “What we’re finding out is that these tests can be used in the general population to give us information as to who is most likely to have a future problem, whether it be a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.”
For the study, researchers examined a group of 8,121 people aged 54 to 74 with no history of cardiovascular disease. The protein troponin was detected in 85 percent of the participants. It was found that highly sensitive troponin tests were especially good at predicting heart attack and stroke when paired with the results of an equation commonly used to calculate a person’s 10-year risk of having a cardiovascular event.
Dr. Rebecca Vigen, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, gave a quote about the test: “Research in this area is leading us toward individualized care more and more, so we can better predict who’s at risk for developing adverse cardiovascular outcomes. This study is a step in the direction of personalizing care.”
Since using the troponin test could help to prevent cardiovascular disease before it happens, people may be more inclined to work harder at keeping their blood pressure under control, exercising, and reducing their cholesterol levels.
Ballantyne said, “If you treat someone much earlier, before you have symptoms, you will be far more effective in preventing events.”
“Our major problem is that we do too little too late. If the first time you find out that you’re at risk for heart failure is when you actually start getting short of breath and you end up in the hospital, you probably have advanced heart disease already, and it is going to be harder to treat than if that person took steps years earlier.”
The study shows that although the troponin tests are already being used in the diagnosis of heart attack in the United States, they have not been approved as a risk assessment strategy.
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