LIFESTYLE

Blood Test That Spots Heart Attacks (And Costs A Fiver) Could 'Save Many More Women's Lives'

21/01/2015 10:16 GMT | Updated 21/01/2015 10:59 GMT

A £5 blood test could enable doctors to spot twice as many heart attacks in women, according to a new health study.

The British Heath Foundation (BHF), which funded the research, said that the highly sensitive test could "save many more women's lives" by reducing the risk of them having future heart attacks.

It is believed that the new test is more effective on women because of their lower troponin levels.

heart health

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh looked at the effectiveness of a blood test to measure troponin, a protein released from the heart during a heart attack.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, included more than 1,000 men and women admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh with chest pain.

Using the current standard NHS test, almost twice as many men (19%) as women (11%) were diagnosed as having had a heart attack. But using the new test for men and women, the number of women diagnosed with heart attacks doubled (22%), the BHF said.

It is thought the test is particularly effective in picking up cases in women because they appear to have lower troponin levels than men.

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Around 110,000 men and 65,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with a heart attack each year, while women are three times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer, according to the BHF.

Researchers are set to carry out a larger clinical trial involving more than 26,000 people to assess whether the new test improves outcomes for patients.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said the results could prove significant.

"If these results are confirmed in the much larger clinical trial we're funding, these results suggest that using a high sensitivity troponin test, with a threshold specific to each gender, could save many more women's lives by identifying them earlier to take steps to prevent them dying or having another, bigger heart attack," he said.

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Jenni Stevens, 41, from Edinburgh, was rushed to hospital after collapsing with chest pains and the troponin blood test was used to help diagnose a heart attack.

She said: "As much as I was frightened, I felt a sense of reassurance when I got to the hospital. They took my blood and did other tests.

"They thought I'd had a heart attack. I was treated with a stent to save my life. I'm genuinely so grateful that my heart attack was spotted and treated so well and with such compassion."

Anoop Shah, clinical lecturer in cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, who worked on the study, said: "While similar numbers of men and women attend the A&E with chest pains, we wanted to know why women are less likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack.

"At the moment one in 10 women with chest pains will be diagnosed with a heart attack compared to one in five men.

"Our findings suggest one reason for this difference in diagnosis rates of men and women is that we, as doctors, may have been using a threshold for troponin testing that is too high in women."