New York: A more sensitive version of a blood test long used to verify heart muscle damage from heart attacks could also identify people on their way to developing hypertension well before the so-called silent killer shows up on a blood pressure machine, research has found.
People with higher levels of the cardiac regulatory protein troponin T are more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension within a few years, showed the findings.
"Identifying those at risk for hypertension as well as those in the earliest stages of the disease would allow us to intervene much sooner, either with lifestyle changes or medication, before the condition develops fully and has had a chance to damage organs," said lead investigator Bill McEvoy, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.
The high-sensitivity test can identify these people, because it detects even trace amounts of troponin released by heart cells injured by spikes in blood pressure that come and go unnoticed, often for years, the study said.
The study followed 5,479 people people for an average of 12 years.
None of the participants had clinical diagnosis of hypertension at the beginning of the study.
Compared with people whose troponin levels were undetectable -- less than five nanograms per deciliter -- those with mild elevations -- five to eight nanograms per deciliter -- had a 13 percent higher rate of hypertension during the follow-up.
Those with notably elevated troponin levels -- nine to 13 nanograms per deciliter -- were 24 percent more likely to have developed hypertension, and those with troponin levels above 13 nanograms per deciliter had a nearly 40 percent higher risk of hypertension.
The study was published in the journal Circulation.