Did you know March 24th was Lipoprotein(a) awareness day? Have you heard about this risk factor? Have you ever wondered what it is and why it’s important in determining your risk for heart disease and stroke?
What is Lipoprotein(a)?
Lipoprotein(a) is usually referred to as Lp(a) and is pronounced “L-P-little-A.” Lipoproteins are proteins found in the body that carry cholesterol through the blood.
Lp(a) is an important genetic factor that increases the risk aortic valve stenosis (narrowing of the valve), heart attack and stroke. Much like low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, Lp(a) also carries cholesterol in the blood. It is a silent often undetected cause of early heart disease.
How do genetics play a role in Lp(a)?
Everyone has Lp(a) in their blood but the amount of Lp(a) in your body is determined by the genes you received at birth from your parents. Lp(a) is inherited and unrelated to diet and lifestyle.
Lp(a) reaches its adult level by around age 5 and remains stable thereafter — except during acute illness and menopause, which can both cause Lp(a) to increase. Lp(a) levels are completely unrelated to your lifestyle. About 1 in 5 people have inherited Lp(a) but fewer than 1% are tested for it. Its not part of standard cholesterol tests.
What does it mean to have high Lp(a)?
Elevated levels of Lp(a) increase your risk of inflammation, blood clotting and plaque build up in your arteries. These all are causes of heart attack or stroke.
Lp(a) contain oxidized phospholipids which promotes inflammation. Inflammation in your arteries increase your risk of plaque rupture. Oxidized phospholipids also deposits calcium in the valve. While calcium in your bones is desired you don’t want it in your aortic valve. A calcified aortic valve does not open completely and reduces blood flow.
We have factors in our blood for breaking down clots, when you have elevated Lp(a) it prevents clots from breaking down – Lp(a) favors clotting. If a plaque ruptures and a blood clot form on top of the plaque it can completely block the flow of blood – this is how a heart attack occurs.
How to you test Lp(a)?
Discovering your Lp(a) level is as simple as having a blood test. The next time you have a lipid profile tested at your local lab ask your doctor to add Lp(a) to the requisition.
If your Lp(a) level is greater than 50 mg/dL (125 nmol/L), you have high Lp(a).
What is your next step if you have an elevated Lp(a)?
Treatments to reduce Lp(a) are individually based. If you have an elevated Lp(a) discuss this with your naturopathic doctor to discover the best steps. Some treatment options may include nutraceuticals (red rice yeast or others), pharmaceuticals (statins or others) or IV treatments (Chelation or Plaque X)
Dr. Karen McGee, ND
Dr. Nicole Duffee, ND