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Improving Cardiac Risk Detection in Healthy People

Coming soon: A new part of the Annual Health Assessment will flag the need for lifestyle change before heart problems start

A happy, mature couple smile at their computer desk as the woman makes a heart shape with her hands.

A heart attack caused the sudden deaths of Sopranos star James Gandolfini, John Ritter of Three’s Company fame, and Canadian comedian John Candy. Even Mother Teresa suffered from heart problems that eventually led to her death.

A heart attack can happen with little warning. That fact is frightening.

We all know that eating healthy foods, watching our weight, reducing stress, and not smoking represent ways to improve our heart health. However, there’s no guarantee that making those changes will keep all heart problems at bay.

Now, a new tool can help doctors evaluate your risk of having a heart problem in the future—even if you have no symptoms or signs of a heart condition right now. It’s a risk stratification test called High-Sensitive Troponin-I, known as hs-Troponin-I .

Instead of treating a heart condition after it develops, the new test helps doctors to more accurately determine the risk level of even healthy patients—helping doctor and patient work together to choose the right preventative treatments in advance with the hopes of ensuring that a heart condition never materializes.

Why is this test important?

Simply because the mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease—the number one cause of death around the globe for both men and women—is on the rise. The hs-Troponin-I tool can help doctors learn who is most at risk. That group can then lower their risk by altering lifestyle choices (such as quitting smoking, improving eating and exercise habits), and adding certain medications, if necessary.

The new test also helps doctors determine which patients are at low risk in order to avoid unnecessary tests or treatments.

Currently, other tools do exist to help evaluate the potential risk of heart conditions, including monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and checking for biomarkers of chronic inflammation. But those tools have limitations and they aren’t solely targeting heart health. They can also over- or under-estimate cardiac risk, and be heavily influenced by age.

Troponin is the name of a family of proteins that are integral to muscle contraction in skeletal muscles and cardiac muscles. Large studies that have followed tens of thousands of healthy participants over time have discovered an association between the concentration of the troponin protein and the participants’ likelihood to experience major vascular events and death years later. In addition, the troponin screening improves risk prediction for cardiovascular death, the first cardiovascular event, and overall mortality.

The hs-Troponin-I test can detect the protein in the blood of “apparently healthy individuals with no clinical signs and symptoms of cardiac disease,” said Gillian Murtagh, associate medical director of Abbott Diagnostics, in a web presentation.

In other words, this simple blood test can evaluate—in people who seem completely healthy—their risk for a future heart condition based on their current levels of hs-Troponin-I. It’s an effective test when combined with other regularly used clinical and diagnostic tools, said Dr. Murtagh.

Depending on the levels of hs-Tropinin-I in the bloodstream, a patient is then determined to have a low, moderate or high risk of heart disease. The test is more effective and precise than current methods in judging a patient’s current and future risk level for heart issues, Dr. Murtagh said.

Testing for hs-Troponin-I is done via a simple blood test. It can also be performed when blood is taken for regular cholesterol or other tests.

The test can also be used to monitor how well lifestyle changes or medical treatment are working to reduce heart health risks. Decreases in hs-Troponin-I levels would indicate that treatments are working and reducing the potential of a heart condition.

Learn more about Medcan’s Annual Health Assessment. Call (416) 350-5900 to arrange an appointment.

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