Heart Attack Risk: What The Tests Tell You

If you want to learn your chances of suffering a heart attack, ask your doctor to draw blood for C-Reactive Protein (CRP), the good HDL and the bad LDL cholesterol, small low-density lipoprotein, Lp(a), homocysteine. He will also check your blood pressure.

We used to think that heart attacks were caused primarily by plaques accumulating in arteries because of high cholesterol levels. Now we know that the inner lining of an artery must first be roughed up before plaques form, and infections are the most common cause of damaged inner linings of arteries. C-Reactive Protein is a blood test that measures inflammation or the swelling that occurs in arteries before plaques form. So C-reactive protein is one of the best indicators that a person is headed for a heart attack.

Blood cholesterol levels are still good predictors of heart attacks. Your bad LDL cholesterol should be under 100. If you have had a heart attack, your LDL should be under 70. Having high blood levels of a subfraction of the bad LDL cholesterol called small LDL increases your risk for a heart attack.

Another test called homocysteine also predicts heart attacks. When your diet does not provide you with adequate amounts of the vitamins B12, pyridoxine and folic acid, blood levels of homocysteine rise. There is a correlation between high homocysteine and damage to arteries, but so far we do not understand the mechanism.

Lp(a) is a genetic disorder that causes clots to form and so is a cause of heart attacks, particularly in younger people (men under the age of 40 and women under the age of 60.)

A heart-healthy diet makes it possible for many people to control cholesterol and blood pressure without drugs. More


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