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Blood test shows promise for predicting risk of hypertension

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Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine (MD, USA) have demonstrated that a high sensitivity version of a blood test used to verify heart muscle damage could be used to identify individuals at risk of developing hypertension, or those who are in the early stages of the illness. Their findings were recently published in the journal Circulation.

Currently, the troponin T test is the gold-standard screen for cardiac muscle damage. It works by detecting trace amounts of troponin – a protein released by injured heart cells – in blood. The team used a high sensitivity version of the troponin test to analyze blood samples from 5497 individuals enrolled in a long-term research study.

Their results showed that compared with people whose troponin levels were undetectable, those with subtle, minor or significant elevations had a higher rate of hypertension within a few years. They also found that the test is capable of identifying people at risk for left ventricular hypertrophy, a heart condition that is commonly caused by untreated high blood pressure.

Elizabeth Selvin, senior study investigator, noted: “Our data suggest that the high-sensitivity troponin test could flag people with normal blood pressure in the doctor’s office who are at high risk for hypertension and other poor outcomes.”

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 billion people worldwide have hypertension. Although there are no associated symptoms in the earlier stages, over time, it can lead to devastating complications, including heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

“Identifying those at risk for hypertension as well as those in the earliest stages of the disease would allow us to intervene much sooner, either with lifestyle changes or medication, before the condition develops fully and has had a chance to damage organs,” concluded Bill McEvoy, the lead investigator.

Sources: McEvoy JW, Chen Y, Nambi V et al. High-sensitivity cardiac troponin T and risk of hypertension. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.014364 (2015) (Epub ahead of print); Common ‘heart attack’ blood test may predict future hypertension.

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