This Inexpensive Blood Test Might Save Your Life

For several years, clinicians have used a simple, inexpensive blood test to confirm the presence of a heart attack among people who appear to have suffered one. Now researchers are saying that this same test could be better than checking cholesterol and blood pressure to identify individuals who may experience a heart attack in the future and therefore allow them to take steps to perhaps save their life.

Read about women and heart attacks

The inexpensive blood test, which costs as little as six dollars, was developed at the University of Edinburgh and Glasgow. It works by looking for cardiac troponin I, a protein that the heart releases into the bloodstream when its muscles have been damaged. Scientists believe that finding this protein in the blood can be linked to problems with the heart as far as 15 years into the future. 

Evaluating the blood test in men

In a new study, 3,318 men who had high “bad” (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) cholesterol but no history of heart disease were randomly assigned to take either a placebo or 40 mg of a statin (pravastatin) once daily for five years. All of the men had their blood tested for the presence of troponin. Professor Nicholas Mills and his colleagues found that men who had elevated levels of troponin were at greater risk of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease up to 15 years later. More specifically, a troponin level of 5.2 ng/L was the threshold associated with having a two to three times greater risk of experiencing a coronary event over 15 years. 

Read about whether cholesterol and saturated fat are your friends

However, the researchers also discovered that prescribing the cholesterol-lowering drug pravastatin (which is associated with significant side effects) to half of the participants reduced both their troponin levels and their risk of heart disease. It should be noted that the researchers in this study did not initiate other cholesterol-lowering strategies, such as changing diet or taking supplements shown to lower cholesterol. 

Professor Mills also noted that “Troponin testing will help doctors to identify apparently healthy individuals who have silent heart disease so we can target preventive treatments to those who are likely to benefit most.” Because this study involved men only, the authors pointed out that the threshold of 5.2 ng/L in this study “may not apply to women or to other groups.” 

Let’s hope this inexpensive blood test becomes readily available in the near future. Who knows how many lives it may save.

By Deborah Mitchell| January 10, 2017
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her at

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