Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often known as a “silent killer”—but it has become a bit less silent thanks to a team of investigators from Johns Hopkins University. The team discovered that a variant of the blood test used to confirm heart muscle damage from heart attacks can predict whether people will develop hypertension in the future.
Hypertension is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes in the U.S., but detection is currently tricky. It requires a number of tests over multiple visits due to its variability and slow onset. The new, more sensitive version of the test, is intended to remedy this.
When the heart is damaged, it releases a protein called troponin T. A relatively cheap troponin T blood test is already a standard and reliable practice for determining whether someone has recently had a heart attack. However, the test is not useful for other heart conditions that cause smaller amounts to be released. The Johns Hopkins team created a recalibrated, highly sensitive version of the test that can notice far lower levels of troponin T than previously possible. It is so sensitive that it can detect traces of troponin T released as a result of short-lived blood pressure spikes, which would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
The test involved 5,479 people. Researchers checked their troponin levels and then observed whether they developed hypertension in the following years. Those with trace troponin levels in their blood were up to 40% more likely to develop hypertension within the next 12 years.
Once additional research confirms these results, it is hoped that the high-sensitivity test can become an important diagnostic tool. Doctors will be able to alert patients who are at high risk of future hypertension and preventative measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of occurrence.
The study will be published in the September 1 issue of Circulation.
Source for Today’s Article:
Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Common ‘heart attack’ blood test may predict future hypertension,” press release, EurekAlert! web site, August 26, 2015; http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/jhm-ca082615.php.