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Healthy Heart Reports

Blood Tests For Heart Attack Risk

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. 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 must be covered by your good HDL cholesterol. For each rise in bad LDL cholesterol, you need a proportionate rise in the good HDL cholesterol to protect you from suffering a heart attack. If your bad cholesterol is 100, you need at least a 40 good cholesterol to protect you. If your bad cholesterol is greater than 140, you need at least a 65 good cholesterol to protect you.

However, there is far more to predicting heart attacks than your cholesterol values. 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, damaging the walls of the arteries and causing plaques to form. 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.)

If your C reactive protein is high, you may need to take Zithromax, Dynabec, or Biaxin for 9 days. If your good HDL is low or your triglycerides are high, you need to restrict calories and any foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar, such as bakery products, pastas and sugar-added foods; and eat root vegetables and fruits only with other foods, not alone as snacks. You may also need to take medications. If your bad LDL cholesterol is high, you need to restrict saturated fats, partially hydrogenated fats and calories, and you may need to take medication. If your Lp(a) is greater than 40, you need to take the vitamin niacin after every meal in continually raising doses until your Lp(a) is below 40. Diet will not lower Lp(a). If your homocysteine is high, you need to avoid meat and poultry, and eat plenty of whole grains, leafy green vegetables. You can meet your needs for vitamin B12 with seafood and skim milk dairy products, or with B 12 pills.

HR Superko. New aspects of risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis, including small low-density lipoprotein, homocyst(e)ine, and lipoprotein(a). Current Opinion in Cardiology 10: 4 (JUL 1995):347-354.


Copyright 2002
Dr. Mirkin's opinions and the references cited are for information only, and are not intended to diagnose or prescribe. For your specific diagnosis and treatment, consult your doctor or health care provider.

For more recipes, refer to the The Healthy Heart Miracle book.