The life-saving heart test you need to know about (Hint: It’s not cholesterol)

I would like to think that we’re moving in the right direction in our quest to end heart disease by looking at novel ways of approaching the topic. Unfortunately, the United States still believes that if you lower your cholesterol far enough, you’ll live forever.

Of course, you and I know better. This line of thinking has been proven wrong again and again. But they keep up the mantra. Why? So they can keep on pushing statins like the drug dealers in my old neighborhood used to push cocaine.

But the rest of the world has wised up. They no longer take this cholesterol-lowering/statin-popping nonsense as gospel. They know that deaths from heart disease remain stubbornly high despite the fact that, over here, we’re practically pumping statins into the drinking water.

Instead, other countries are investigating better ways to improve cardiovascular health. First step, obviously, is to maintain a healthy weight and exercise. But research advances are pointing to other important ways to get a handle on heart disease.

In one study, middle-aged men with high cholesterol were given either pravastatin (a popular type of statin) or placebo. The researchers kept an eye on the men’s levels of cardiac troponin subtype I (troponin I) — a heart muscle protein that can be useful in diagnosing heart attack.

The men whose levels of troponin I had dropped after a year of taking either the statin or the placebo were much less likely to have a non-fatal heart attack or to die from heart disease during follow-up.

Now here’s where it gets interesting — and where the final nail gets hammered into cholesterol’s coffin. The change in troponin I levels could predict adverse cardiovascular events no matter what happened to cholesterol levels.

The findings are causing quite a stir in the heart health community, with experts throwing around words like exciting, provocative, and even revolutionary. (Sounds like they’re reviewing Hamilton, not a scientific study.)

As I mentioned, troponin I levels are useful in diagnosing heart attack. They’re routinely measured when people go to the ER complaining of chest pain or unusual cardiac symptoms.

But this study suggests troponin I tests shouldn’t be reserved for the ER. It appears measuring levels over time may be key in assessing overall heart risk — not just acute cardiac events. Plus, changing levels could help determine whether therapeutic interventions are working or not.

In theory, this really could revolutionize the way we manage patients with (or at risk of) heart disease.

Of course, blood pressure is still an important measure of heart disease risk, and it will remain relevant. But troponin directly measures injury to the heart, even at early stages. So it could be a way to identify otherwise healthy individuals who have “silent” heart disease.

I love the fact that, despite what the entire American scientific community would have you believe, these investigators found no association with changes in LDL cholesterol and heart disease risk. Could it be that we’ve been wrongly blaming LDL all this time?

(The short answer: Yes. I’ve been saying so for years.)

While many are calling these findings “counterintuitive,” I disagree. Once you open your eyes to the world beyond cholesterol, these findings make perfect sense.

Testing for troponin I began in clinical practice in 2013. And it’s gaining traction worldwide, with the exception of the United States, where (unsurprisingly) it is not yet approved for this use. Gee, I wonder why …

If you’re one of the many people who opt out of taking statins (as many of my patients do), chalk this one up as a win for your team. It’s only a matter of time before statin drugs get tossed to the bottom of the rubbish pile of wasteful interventions that caused more harm than good.

In the meantime, you can read more about natural ways to keep your heart healthy in my special report The World’s Easiest Heart Disease Cure. Click here to learn more about it or to order a copy today.