We all want to be around for our loved ones as long as we can be. So it’s important to keep our heart healthy. We must exercise regularly, be careful of what we eat, buffer stress, and have our blood and arteries tested for risk factors that alert us to possible dangers to our cardiovascular health.
Blood tests-not just for cholesterol
Basic blood tests for cardiovascular risk factors include total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. HDL is considered the good cholesterol, so having low levels is unhealthy. Having high levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol, is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A recent study published in the journal PLoS One, shows that the size of cholesterol particles, such as a subclass of LDL cholesterol, is an important predictor of heart disease and its progression. A VAP test, and other tests, can measure the size of cholesterol particles, and improve detection of your risk for heart disease.
Depending on your family history, symptoms, and results of these tests, your doctor may decide to test you for other risk factors.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), an inflammatory protein, offers an improved ability to accurately predict your risk of heart disease.
Vitamin K plays an important role in preventing vascular calcification. Measuring levels of vitamin K is important, because low levels have recently been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, independent of the usual risk factors.
Tests to measure arterial health
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), where the arteries of the leg are blocked with plaque, indicates an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Your doctor can test for this by a test called the ankle-brachial index, or by Doppler ultrasound.
The Coronary Artery Calcium Score (CAC), can be an important diagnostic test in patients who have no symptoms of heart disease. A recent study shows that adding CAC scoring to traditional risk factors greatly improves the ability to detect the risk of future coronary heart disease.
A combination of tests might be required to help diagnose and prevent cardiovascular disease. You can take charge of your heart health by speaking with your doctor about which tests are best for you.