By Dr. Lauren Procopio, ND
February is American Heart Month, and in honor of hearts, this month’s loving blog is about non-standard tests that can help uncover hidden risks for heart disease. Below are 3 tests that go beyond basic heart health screening:
We’ve all heard about cholesterol tests. There’s “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, but did you know that when it comes to cholesterol molecules, size matters?
An LDL-P (Low-Density Lipoprotein Particle count) test can tell you more information about how many and what size “bad” cholesterol molecules you are making.
Too many small particles and you have a recipe for clogged arteries.
This little molecule can cause a lot of trouble. Before we can fully understand lipoprotein (a), we need to discuss the clotting cascade.
Blood clots can form both on the surface of the skin, such as when you cut yourself and get a scab, or they can form INSIDE the body — within the blood vessels.
When your body needs to remove a clot, a molecule called plasminogen is what breaks clots apart.
Lipoprotein (a) is structurally similar to plasminogen, so it can bind to clots, but it cannot break them apart. I repeat: It cannot break down the clots!
Now imagine you have a ton of lipoprotein (a) floating around the blood stream, enough to bind all the clots. The lipoprotein (a) in high enough amounts is essentially going to block your natural ability to break down clots because plasminogen can’t get to the clot to do its job. This is why having high lipoprotein (a) can increase your risk for heart disease.
As to why our bodies would make this molecule in the first place, there is an interesting hypothesis that prehistoric humans might have actually benefited from having a lot of lipoprotein (a) because it meant they might not bleed to death if they got cut out in the wild.
However, in the modern day, most people don’t need to worry about that and could benefit from a reduction in lipoprotein (a) if they have high levels.
Homocysteine is a molecule that can increase your risk of heart disease by damaging the inside of blood vessels. This can increase the likelihood of clots and lead to:
- Atherosclerosis (damaged, thickened blood vessels)
- Heart attack (blood clot in heart)
- Stroke (blood clot in brain)
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in lung)
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot in deep veins)
High homocysteine can sometimes be linked to MTHFR mutations, so you might want to ask for a genetic test if your homocysteine level comes back high.
These lab tests can provide more information for your overall health picture and may aid in discovering a treatment strategy to reduce your cardiovascular risk.
If you have a personal history or strong family history of heart disease, please talk to your naturopathic doctor about whether you need to go beyond the standard with your heart health screening in honor of American Heart Month.