A SIMPLE blood test could detect twice as many women suffering a heart attack as the standard NHS test, research suggests.

The new test is much more sensitive than the one currently used by doctors, particularly for women.

It detects levels of troponin, a protein that leaks into the blood from heart muscle cells after they have been damaged by a heart attack.

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Doctors measure troponin to see if a heart attack is the reason why somebody is suffering chest pains.

The new test - called the high sensitive troponin-I (hsTnI) test - can measure much lower levels of troponin than the one currently used by the NHS.

It is more effective in women because they appear to have lower troponin levels than men. Until now, it had been assumed that levels of troponin were the same in men and women.

Experts believe the new findings could lead to far more women being diagnosed with a heart attack, potentially saving lives.

Dr Nicholas Mills, one of the study authors and a cardiologist from Edinburgh University, presented the findings at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) conference in Amsterdam.

"While men and women are just as likely to present to the emergency department with chest pain, men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack," he said. Using the test meant "the frequency of diagnosis of heart attacks in women increased and was comparable to men", he added.

The research involved 1126 patients attending hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. A larger study will be completed in 2016 involving more than 25,000 patients in 10 centres in Scotland.