A new, more sensitive blood test could double the rate of heart attack diagnoses in women, potentially saving more lives if used in clinical practice, researchers have found.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in the British Medical Journal, compared the effectiveness of a new blood test able to detect very small levels of troponin, a protein released from the heart during a heart attack, compared to the standard one, which can only detect higher levels. 

It was found that the more sensitive test doubled the diagnoses of heart attacks in women, bringing the proportion more in line with the diagnosis of men, indicating that different troponin thresholds should be considered for each sex. 

“Our findings suggest one reason for the difference in heart attack diagnosis rates of men and women is that we, as doctors, may have been using a threshold for troponin testing that is too high in women,” noted Anoop Shah, Clinical Lecturer in Cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, who worked on the study. 

The BHF is now funding a bigger trial involving 26,000 patients to find out whether use of the higher sensitivity test improves the outcomes for patients.