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High Troponin Levels & Your Heart
Updated on January 31, 2024
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High Troponin Levels & Your Heart

When the heart is damaged, it releases troponins into the bloodstream. This leads to elevated troponin levels. Your cardiac troponins are high if:1

  • Your troponin T is above 0.04 ng/mL
  • Your troponin I is above 0.01 ng/mL

High troponin levels are often seen in people who are having heart attacks or suffer from myocardial injury. However, other conditions may also cause it.

High Troponin Levels & Your Heart 2

“Myocardial infarction is the most common cause of high levels of troponin. A troponin test helps doctors diagnose a heart attack,” says Dr. Rizza Mira.

Dr. Rizza Mira is an in-house medical expert at KnowYourDNA. She’ll help us explain what high troponin levels mean and what you can do about it.

Summary

Troponin is a protein in your cardiac muscles. It is released into your blood when there is damage to your heart. Healthy people have normal levels of troponin.

What Is Troponin?

Troponin is a protein found in your skeletal and heart muscles. It makes your muscles contract and maintains a strong and healthy heartbeat.2

The protein troponin also helps your heart pump enough blood throughout your body so your cells and organs get an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients.2

There are three types of troponin proteins:

  • Troponin C — initiates muscle contraction
  • Troponin I — prevents muscles from contracting 
  • Troponin T — facilitates muscle contractions

When the heart tissue is damaged, the troponins T and I from inside your heart muscle cells are released into the bloodstream. This is why a troponin test measures only these two proteins.

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What Are Normal Troponin Levels?

Healthy people usually have cardiac troponin levels that can't be detected by blood tests. Test results within the normal range suggest the absence of heart disease or heart injury.

However, what is considered “normal” for each type of troponin may vary across laboratories. Some labs may also have different ranges for men and women. 

Usually, the normal levels for a high-sensitivity cardiac troponin test are:1

  • Troponin T – 0 to 0.01 ng/mL
  • Troponin I – 0 to 0.04 ng/mL

Even the slightest increase in troponins may be a sign of heart injury.

What Is A High Troponin Level?

Troponin levels are high when they’re outside the normal range. This means having troponin I levels above 0.04 ng/mL or troponin T levels above 0.01 ng/mL.1

These are signs that there has been damage to the heart. 

If your high-sensitivity troponin I test shows abnormal levels, you may be at risk of a heart attack or have already suffered it recently—and need immediate medical attention.

Meanwhile, above-normal results for a high-sensitivity troponin T test suggest heart failure. Hospitalization is needed to manage the condition.

Summary

Troponins are cardiac biomarkers. Positive troponin test results indicate the presence of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.

What Causes High Troponin Levels?

High troponin levels may be a sign that you suffered a heart attack. Higher levels suggest more serious damage to your heart muscles.

Troponin levels will rise 4 to 6 hours after a heart attack. This peaks around 12 to 48 hours after, but they can stay elevated up to two weeks later.1

Dr. Mira says blood clots are the most common cause of heart attacks. If your troponin is high, your doctor will retest your levels to see how they change over time.

Other health conditions that may cause high troponin levels are:3

  • Viral myocarditis (heart inflammation due to a viral infection)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Unstable angina (lack of blood flow to the heart that causes chest pain) 
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) 
  • Cardioversion (the use of an electric current to restore a normal heart rhythm)
  • Severe COVID-19 infection
  • Sarcoidosis (an inflammatory disease that affects the heart)
  • Heart trauma, caused by a sudden blunt impact to the chest or heart surgery

Heterophile antibodies may cause false positive results. These are antibodies released during autoimmune diseases, blood transfusions, vaccines, and certain foods.4

Summary

Troponin testing—along with other tests—can help your doctor determine the best course of action and prevent more serious complications on your health.

Treatment for High Troponin Levels

Treatment depends on what is causing your elevated troponin levels. Doctors may use other tests to identify the exact location of heart damage, so they find the best treatment for your condition.

If you’ve had a heart attack, the doctor may suggest treatments to restore blood flow and prevent further damage to your heart. These include: 

  • Thrombolytics — dissolve blood clots that block blood flow to the heart.
  • Anticoagulants — thins the blood and make it less likely to form clots. Examples include warfarin and heparin.
  • Antiplatelets — prevents platelets from sticking together and eventually forming clots. Aspirin is the most commonly used.
  • Nitroglycerin — expands blood vessels to increase blood flow to the heart and relieve chest pain.
  • Beta-blockers — slows heart rate and reduces high blood pressure to protect the heart from further damage.
  • ACE inhibitors — reduces high blood pressure by widening blood vessels.

“ACE inhibitors like captopril and enalapril also prevent the heart from changing its structure due to damage,” explains Dr. Mira.

In severe blockages, blood flow to the heart can be restored with a cardiac stent (a tube that keeps arteries open) or a coronary artery bypass surgery.

The doctor may also prescribe statins to reduce your risk for future heart attacks and complications. But if your high troponin level is caused by reasons other than a heart attack, your doctor may suggest other treatments.

Why Test for Troponin?

Troponin tests check for heart damage. Doctors usually order a high-sensitivity troponin test when a patient shows symptoms of a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Pain in the arms, legs, jaw, or neck
  • Sudden fatigue
  • Feeling lightheaded, faint, or weak
  • Nausea or vomiting 

High-sensitivity tests for troponin are also recommended for people who want to undergo heart surgery but have a high risk of cardiac injury.

A doctor will consider all your symptoms and health history to diagnose your condition. They may need more tests like a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram (ECG), and other blood tests.

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Updated on January 31, 2024
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4 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  1. Troponin” StatPearls 
  2. Troponin Test” Clevelandclinic.org
  3. The meaning of elevated troponin I levels: not always acute coronary syndromes” The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
  4. What to do when you question cardiac troponin values” European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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