Heart attack concept

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have used a new way of assessing heart disease risk that shows that the risk of heart failure is up to 6 times higher in people with diabetes and prediabetes.

The new test developed measure levels of troponin, a protein that is released when cells within the heart die. Whilst measurement of troponin levels already occurs, the new test is much more sensitive and able to measure levels of the protein in very small amounts. The new method is therefore able to detect earlier stages of heart disease than has previously been possible.

One of the surprising outcomes of the study was that cholesterol was shown to have no bearing on which study participants had evidence of heart disease.

Within the study, people with diabetes and trace levels of troponin had a 4 times greater risk of developing heart disease and six times higher risk of developing heart failure.

The test could prove to be very useful in diagnosing heart disease at an early stage, especially as it was able to detect evidence of heart disease in people that had normal cholesterol levels and also appeared healthy.

In addition to identifying heart disease early, it could also have uses in clinical trials where currently cholesterol levels are often used to assess heart risk. Whilst very high and very low cholesterol are linked with higher risks of heart disease, cholesterol levels are generally not a strong indicator of heart risk.