Researchers in the United Kingdom have developed a more effective method of diagnosing heart attacks within women. This improved method consists of more sensitively checking the level of troponin T and I in the blood stream. While the traditional method evaluates levels of the same proteins, the difference lies in looking for a lower level of said proteins in women, who naturally have a lesser amount than men.
According to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these proteins can be found in the blood stream after the heart muscle has experienced some type of damage. The greater amount of damage results in a higher level of troponin T and I.
More often than not, however, heart attacks go undiagnosed and even unnoticed in women. According to Medical News Today, in the United States, roughly the same number of women die from heart attacks as men each year. In fact, there is an annual total of 435,000 women who report having heart attacks, which is less than half the of the country’s estimated total.
Regarding the lack of diagnoses among women, Dr. Anoop Shah, one of the doctors who helped develop this enhanced method, stated that women tend to be misdiagnosed because traditional testing was not efficient and women tend to have less obvious symptoms.
“At the moment one in 10 women with chest pains will be diagnosed with a heart attack compared to one in five men. Our findings suggest one reason for this difference in 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. For some reason, women are less likely to have obvious symptoms and if the test result comes back negative then they might be sent home only to have an event [heart attack] in the next few months because they were not treated appropriately.”
In that, women tend to have symptoms that are not traditionally associated with heart attacks. Related symptoms for women include “nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting, light-headedness, pain in the back or jaw, and sudden, crippling fatigue.”
Early detection is paramount to staving off a full-blown heart attack. The enhanced troponin test for women not only has the potential to correctly diagnose heart attacks within women and save countless lives, but it also raises awareness regarding the more subtle symptoms that many women experience.
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