Researchers in the UK have found that a new high sensitivity blood test is twice as effective at detecting heart attacks in women.
Testing more than 1,000 men and women admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh hospital with chest pain, researchers found that by testing for troponin – a protein released from the heart during a heart attack – the detection of heart attacks in women was twice as successful.
Dr Anoop Shah, Clinical Lecturer in Cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, who worked on the study told the British Heart Foundation, who funded the study, that the findings show that doctors may have been using a threshold for troponin testing that is too high in women.
The study, which has been published in the British Medical Journal also found that by improving detection rates in women, diagnoses rates for females was brought back in line with those of men.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women. Over 4,800 women died of a heart attack in Australia in 2010 – women comprise 49% of all heart attack deaths in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Not only are these new tests important in bringing down the prevalence of death by heart attack, but also because womens heart attack symptoms can be much more subtle than men.
“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center.
“Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”
Researchers will now undertake a larger clinical trial with a threshold specific to each gender.
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