The Other Risk Factors (Heart Health)
We know that high blood cholesterol boosts heart disease risk. Yet some people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. To find out why, researchers are studying other factors that might contribute to heart disease. Several “emerging risk factors” appear to be involved, though we don’t know for sure yet whether they lead to heart disease, or whether treating them will reduce risk. Ask your doctor whether you should be tested for any of these emerging risk factors:
Homocysteine: High blood levels of this amino acid may irritate and damage the arteries, making the blood more likely to clot, and/or make blood vessels less flexible. For women, homocysteine levels tend to rise after menopause. It may be possible to lower elevated levels of homocysteine by getting plenty of folic acid, B6, and B12 in your diet.
Chlamydia pneumoniae: A common cause of respiratory infections, chlamydia pneumoniae also may inflame and damage blood vessel walls. Antibiotics may reduce inflammation.
Lp(a) protein: This is a lipoprotein that may cause too much blood clotting. It also may worsen inflammation. Niacin, a lipid-lowering drug, may help to lower Lp(a) protein levels.
C-reactive protein (CRP): High levels of C-reactive protein indicate inflammation in artery walls. A simple blood test can measure the levels of CRP in the blood. Aspirin and statin drugs may help to reduce high CRP levels.