Even if people do not have symptoms of heart disease, a new blood test might offer early detection for those who are at risk.
So says a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Univ. of Texas Southwestern researchers found that a high-sensitivity blood test could point to a protein which indicates heart disease and increased risk of dying, in otherwise healthy individuals.
Researchers said the blood test detected a protein known as cardiac troponin T (cTnT) in about 25 percent of blood samples. Research also showed that people with detectable levels of the protein were almost seven times more likely to die within six years from heart disease.
"The main takeaway here is that there is a new test that can detect microscopic injury to heart muscle cells," said Dr. James de Lemos, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study. "The test looks quite powerful and we're optimistic that it will help in the future."
A less sensitive version of the blood test is usually used in emergency rooms to determine if a patient who is experiencing chest pains is actually having a heart attack.
The blood test is not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but it has been permitted in Europe. De Lemos said that the test is now among the most powerful predictors that has been seen so far, of death in the general population.
"I think this study is really going to resonate with doctors who are interested in prevention," de Lemos said.