A new test that looks at proteins in the blood could offer a more accurate diagnosis of heart failure.
Currently, the NHS blood test for heart failure looks at a single protein called BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide) but measuring levels for a further 25 types of protein can give a far more accurate measure of heart failure. High levels of BNP can indicate an increased risk of the disease, but other factors such as age, obesity and some medications can also increase levels which skews the test's reliability.
The research, conducted at Queen's University Belfast, involved developing a method to test for the 25 other proteins simultaneously. The team looked at over 400 blood samples from participants with and without heart failure. They were then able to test if the protein levels could identify the disease. More blood samples are being collected from across the world to confirm the accuracy of the research.
Dr Claire Tonry, research fellow at the university and one of the study's lead authors, said: "There's an urgent need to develop tests that can diagnose heart failure at an earlier stage and with greater accuracy in order to improve outcomes for patients with the disease."
Heart failure, a long-term condition which occurs when the heart cannot pump blood around the body as efficiently as it should, affects around 920,000 people in the UK. It can affect day-to-day life, particularly in patients with severe heart failure as daily activities like using stairs become impossible.
Not only is the research encouraging due to its ability to more accurately measure heart disease, but it has also created a way to measure multiple biomarkers in a single blood test which is a difficult process.
Despite being in its early stages, the blood test shows promise for earlier treatment as it can detect signs of heart failure before patients report serious symptoms, which in turn can prevent longer-term heart damage.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director of British Heart Foundation, said: "It is early days but if new blood tests like this yield earlier and more accurate heart failure diagnosis, people living with heart failure could receive treatment sooner. This will help them to better manage their symptoms so they can live full and active lives for longer."
The research was presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference.