In This Article
In This Article
Troponin is a protein involved in muscle contractions. In healthy individuals, troponin levels in the blood are so low they are undetectable by most tests.
When the heart is damaged, it releases troponins into the bloodstream. High troponin levels are often seen in heart attack patients. However, other conditions can cause high levels.
We asked the help of general practitioner Dr. Rizza Mira to help us explain what high troponin levels mean and what you can do about it.
“Myocardial infarction is the most common cause of high levels of troponin. A troponin test is the best diagnostic tool used by health professionals,” she says.
Troponin is a protein complex that helps muscles contract. It’s found in skeletal muscle and heart muscle. It helps maintain a healthy heartbeat so it can pump blood through the body.1
There are three types of troponins:
Together, these three subunits form the troponin complex.
The troponin T and I found in the heart differ from those found in skeletal muscles. The troponin C found in cardiac and skeletal muscle is the exact same type.1
When damaged, heart tissue releases troponin T and troponin I into the bloodstream. This is why troponin tests only measure these two.
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Troponin levels are typically undetectable in most blood tests. It’s considered “normal” when they fall within the reference range.2
Even the slightest increase may be a sign of heart damage. Very high troponin levels mean it’s likely the heart has been damaged.
The reference range will vary slightly depending on the lab and the type of troponin being tested. With that said, the most common normal range for troponin testing is:2
Some labs may also have slightly different ranges for men and women.
Troponin levels are high when they’re outside the normal range, such as above 0.04 ng/mL for troponin I and above 0.01 ng/mL for troponin T.2
These are signs that damage to the heart has occurred.
Troponin I levels above 0.4 ng/mL suggest that the person may be at risk or has already suffered a heart attack. It requires immediate medical attention.
High troponin levels may be a sign that suffered a heart attack. According to Dr. Mira, blood clots are the most common cause of heart attacks. Higher levels suggest more serious damage.
If your troponin is high, your doctor will retest your levels to see how they change over time.
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.2
These health conditions may also cause high troponin:3
Heterophile antibodies can cause false positive results. These are antibodies released during autoimmune diseases, blood transfusions, vaccines, and certain foods.4
Treatment depends on the disease causing your levels to be higher than usual. Additional diagnostic tools are used to diagnose and find out the exact location of heart damage.
If you’ve had a heart attack, the doctor may suggest treatments to restore blood flow and prevent further heart damage. These include:
“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.
Troponin testing checks for damage to the heart. Doctors usually order a troponin test when a patient shows symptoms of a heart attack.
Heart attack symptoms include:
Troponin testing is 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 also need more tests like a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood tests.
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