Blood test could predict heart attack chances years in advance

DALLAS (NBC) - A new blood test could mean earlier diagnosis for women likely to suffer a heart attack.

The number of women who will die this year of heart disease is shocking, estimated at 460,000, or about one per minute.

Emergency rooms are often the first stop for someone with chest pains and they test patient's blood for a protein called troponin to determine if it's a heart attack.

"This test has been used for a long time and it's usually quite high when people are having a heart attack," researcher Dr. Admit Khera said.

But doctors in Dallas wanted to know if the protein was present in blood when there are no symptoms of heart disease.

Researchers at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center took blood samples from thousands of people to get the answer.

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

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

"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," Khera said.

Healthy lifestyle can prevent 80 percent of heart disease in women and this new test may provide some peace of mind.

As of now the new blood test for troponin is not widely available, but researchers are working to change that.

Researchers said with further study, it could eventually be approved to diagnose heart disease in physician's offices.

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