Heart Disease Predictor

Friday, February 11, 2011 - 10:37am

Breakthrough discovery could lead to test for heart disease, before it's too late.

The number of women who will die this year of heart disease is shocking: 460,000. About one per minute. But what if a test could predict problems long before they surface? That's what researchers in Texas are working on.

Emergency rooms are often the first stop for someone with chest pains. A blood test for a protein called troponin determines if it's a heart attack.

Researcher Dr. Amit Khera says "this test has been used for a long time and it's usually quite high when people are having a heart attack."

But doctors in Dallas wanted to know: is the protein in the blood present when there are no symptoms of heart disease?

Researchers at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center took blood samples from thousands of people to get the answer.

They found it is there, in much lower levels, and those with it were almost seven times more likely to die within six years from heart disease.

The lead researcher calls the test "among the most powerful predictors of death in the general population we've seen so far."

Dr. Khera says "we know that people still die of heart disease despite all that we know, so any chance we can to find something new to better combat this, that's what we're trying to do."

80% of heart disease in women is preventable with a healthy lifestyle. This new test may provide some peace of mind. The new blood test for troponin is not widely available.

U.T. Southwestern researchers say with further study, it could eventually be approved to diagnose heart disease in physician's offices.

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