by Dr. Michael Kane ND
“Well, Michael, I reviewed your blood work and your cholesterol numbers are significantly higher than last year. I’d like to put you on a statin to get those numbers down.”
We all know that cholesterol is a major factor in the formation of plaque in our arteries but it is just one of many. As a naturopath, unlike most civilians, I’ve learned about other factors that would help pin point what the risk for heart disease is for me. So I wanted more facts!
So, much to my MD’s surprise, she found herself in a deep dive discussion about others factors and other tests that can help reveal a more complete picture of my personal risk. These include tests for inflammatory and metabolic markers that are associated with heart disease.
Inflammation is a major player in the development of coronary artery disease because it damages the endothelium (the inner lining) of the blood vessels. The body then tries to repair this damage by forming deposits of plaque in the damaged area, which can lead to blockages.
There are a number of inflammatory markers that can be checked by blood tests.
C-REACTIVE PROTEIN (CRP)
CRP has been shown to be twice as effective as a standard cholesterol test in predicting heart attacks and strokes. CRP is a blood protein that is a marker of inflammation occurring in the body. When coronary blood vessels are damaged, the resulting inflammation causes the liver to begin producing this protein. A normal CRP level should be negative to very low, so any elevated reading may mean trouble in the coronary arteries.
Fibrinogen is an inflammatory component of blood coagulation. Studies reported in The New England Journal of Medicine show that those with elevated fibrinogen were twice as likely to die of a heart attack.
Other markers that impact the risk of heart disease are:
Lipoprotein is a “sticky” small cholesterol particle that is a strong predictor of early heart disease. In a recent issue of the medical journal, Circulation reported that people with high levels of Lp(a) are 70 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those with lower concentrations.
Excess insulin promotes smooth-muscle growth in blood vessel walls, which contributes to the formation of plaques. Artery walls become thickened and stiff, causing blood pressure to rise. Insulin resistance may contribute to as much as 60 percent of heart disease in women and 25 percent in men.
Homocysteine is an amino acid derived from protein metabolism. When levels are too high, it can cause irritation to coronary blood vessels, resulting in the initial lesions that enable LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen to accumulate and eventually obstruct blood flow.
Together my doctor and I determined what tests were crucial in my case. I left her office feeling confidant because thanks to my training, I knew that even if the test reveal a greater risk most of the factors were were testing for are treatable with naturopathic supplements and life style changes.
If you are concerned about your risk for heart disease, come in and let’s talk about what your risks might be. Your reward may be peace of mind.