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Norwegian researchers have developed a new blood test that they believe can accurately determine a person's risk of future heart disease.
Scientists from the University of Oslo decided to test how an individual's levels of the protein troponin influence their risk of heart disease and whether this can be identified early enough for them to make changes to their lifestyle in order to reduce their cardiovascular disease risk.
Existing blood tests for heart disease tend to focus on testing a patient's cholesterol levels or their C-reactive protein levels, but this latest development suggests that analysing troponin levels could provide a more accurate prognosis.
Researcher Magnus Nakrem Lyngbakken explained: "This is a well-known marker for heart disease. It is a protein that is likely created by low-grade heart failure."
Overall, the University of Oslo team tested the blood of 9,000 patients during their research, with each participant categorised as having low, moderate or high levels of troponin.
This data was then compared against records of hospitalisations and deaths over the next few years, by which time eight per cent of the 9,000 participants had suffered a heart attack or heart failure. In total, 330 had passed away as a result of heart disease, 270 had suffered a heart attack and 135 had been hospitalised with heart failure.
When the researchers looked back at these patients' troponin levels, it was found that many had higher than average levels of the protein in their blood as many as 14 years before they had fallen ill.
As a result, this indicates that doctors could test for troponin to give people an indicator of their heart disease risk years before they fall ill, meaning they could take action to try to reduce their risk.
However, Mr Lyngbakken added: "We still do not know why people with heart disease have higher levels of the protein many years before there is evidence of heart disease, compared to those without heart disease."
Written by Martin Lambert
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