US researchers said on Monday they have developed a new blood test that may help predict the risk of heart failure in older adults who appear to be in good health.
The test is a more advanced version of one currently carried out in emergency rooms to determine if a patient having chest pain is suffering from a heart attack or something else.
Researchers said the findings may help assess the risk of death for people over age 65 who show no symptoms of heart disease, a group that is particularly difficult to gauge and which sees 80 percent of new congestive heart failure cases.
The test measures the level of troponin T, which is a marker for the biological process of cell death that leads to heart failure, said the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The findings came after a long-term study in which patients' blood samples were studied and stored for up to 18 years. The marker was detected in two-thirds of people without symptoms age 65 or older.
"We found that the higher the level of troponin, the greater the individual was at risk for symptoms of heart failure or death from cardiovascular disease over the next 10-15 years," said lead investigator Christopher deFilippi at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"The meaning of these elevated levels was unknown until this point."
The new test can detect troponin levels that are 10 times lower than previous tests but is not yet commercially available in the United States, where heart disease is the number one killer of men and women.