Knowledge is one of your greatest weapons against cardiovascular disease. No matter your age, it’s important to understand and use the tools at your disposal that can provide you with greater insight into your heart health.
Research shows that heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States.
In fact, more than 600,000 people around the country die of this condition every year, accounting for one in every four deaths.
While these numbers are staggering, they don't have to define you.
Knowledge is one of your greatest weapons against cardiovascular disease. No matter your age, it's important to understand and use the tools at your disposal that can provide you with greater insight into your heart health.
This is where blood tests can be invaluable.
With a simple blood test, you can begin to take a deep dive into the specifics of how your heart is functioning, what issues are there, and what to look out for in the future. With this data in hand, you're able to make smarter decisions moving forward.
Today, we're sharing our list of the top blood tests that can help you identify your risk of cardiovascular disease and take steps to mitigate it.
Ready to learn more? Let's get started.
Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
First, let's review what encompasses cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is an overarching term for a group of specific diseases that target your heart or blood vessels.
Some of the most common types of CVD include:
- Coronary artery diseases (e.g. angina, myocardial infarction/heart attack)
- Heart failure
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Hypertensive heart disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Valvular heart disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Venous thrombosis
While this list is exhaustive, there is hope in prevention. In fact, industry studies estimate that up to 90% of CVD cases are preventable.
While the risk factors for each disease will vary, some general ones apply across the board. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol
- Family history
- Socioeconomic status
- Physical inactivity
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Uncontrolled stress and anger
Did you notice those first three factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking)?
Those are the three key risk factors for heart disease, and at least one pertains to half of all Americans (47%).
All three of those are conditions that you can help curb. While there are some risk factors for heart disease that cannot be controlled, such as your age or your sex, there are many you can.
Controllable risk factors include:
- High LDL cholesterol
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Uncontrolled stress and anger
Knowing this, is it time to make a few lifestyle adjustments? If you're ready to take a more proactive approach to your health, there are several lab tests you should consider before you get started.
These can help give you a clearer picture of your heart's current condition, as well as where you can improve. Keeping these levels in mind, you can focus your efforts more effectively.
Next, let's take a look at the lab tests that we offer to support a stronger, healthier heart.
Top Blood Tests for Heart Health
When you're ready to take a close look at some of your risk factors for CVD, a lab test can deliver the hard data you need. Here are 27 tests to order depending on your medical concern and the information you're looking to find.
Lipids are a group of fats or fat-like substances in your body. They are important parts of your cells and also provide energy. A lipid panel measures the levels of certain types of lipids in your bloodstream. It also measures your total cholesterol for all of your lipoprotein particles and includes the following six biomarkers that measure:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- LDL-cholesterol (calculated)
- Cholesterol/HDL ratio (calculated)
- Non-HDL cholesterol (calculated)
2. LDL Particle Testing
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are particles responsible for transporting lipids throughout your body. Each particle contains a combination of different kinds of molecules, including:
Often called subfraction testing, LDL particle testing measures the relative amounts of these different particles in your bloodstream.
Standing for Complete Blood Count, this test contains 33 biomarkers.
A CBC test examines your overall health and allows physicians to look at multiple components and features of your blood. These include:
- Red blood cells that transport oxygen
- White blood cells that fight infection
- Hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen, found in red blood cells
- Hematocrit, the percentage of red blood cells in your blood (by volume)
- Platelets that help with blood clotting
If any levels are abnormally high or low, this will alert a medical professional that there might be an underlying risk factor to consider, such as one for CVD.
A Homocysteine test measures the amount of homocysteine in your blood.
A type of amino acid, a small to moderate amount of homocysteine, is normal. However, abnormally high levels can signal the early development of heart disease.
Other conditions that can cause your homocysteine levels to spike include:
- Low levels of vitamin B6
- Low levels of vitamin B12
- Low levels of folate
- Renal disease
5. Lipoprotein (a)
There are two main kinds of cholesterol in your blood. These include:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as "good" cholesterol
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as "bad" cholesterol
Lipoprotein (a) is a kind of LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol. This test measures the amount of lipoprotein (a) in your blood. If levels are high, it could signal that you're at risk for heart disease.
Fibrinogen is a blood plasma protein that your liver produces.
It plays a critical role in promoting your body to form normal blood clots so it can stop bleeding. A fibrinogen activity test is also called a Factor I assay, and it measures the level of this protein in your blood.
If you have low fibrinogen levels, this can lead to thrombosis. Thrombosis is a blood clot that forms inside of your blood vessel, preventing your blood from flowing as it should throughout your circulatory system.
This can lead to many serious medical conditions, including heart attack and stroke.
7. Apolipoprotein B
Also called Apolipoprotein B or Apo B, Apolipoprotein B-100 is a protein associated with the metabolism of lipids.
It is also the main protein constituent of lipoproteins, including very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad cholesterol").
This test examines the amount of Apo B that your blood contains.
8. Creatine Kinase (CK), Total
Creatine kinase (CK) is an enzyme present within your body. It's found in your heart, brain, skeletal muscle, and many other tissues.
If a muscle becomes weakened or compromised, your body will release excess levels of CK into your blood. A Creatine Kinase (CK), Total test is one way to detect an early heart attack.
9. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel measures 20 biomarkers to provide a complete look into your metabolic functions. As a result, you're granted an inside look at some of your most critical levels, including your:
- Glucose (blood sugar) levels
- Electrolyte and fluid balance
- Kidney function
- Liver function
All of these contain elements that could impact your heart health, as they reveal key insights about your current condition. As such, your physician can use your panel results to monitor an ongoing condition, such as high blood pressure, or to diagnose a new condition, such as diabetes.
10. Hemoglobin A1c
Our Hemoglobin A1C test will reveal your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. This test is especially important for diabetic patients.
Hemoglobin A1C levels are critical indicators of glycemic control. Combined with blood pressure and cholesterol measurements, they can indicate a patient's risk of complications, including CVD.
11. Glucose (Fasting)
A Glucose (Fasting) test measures the amount of glucose in your blood. A kind of simple sugar, glucose is our body's primary source of energy.
This test is important because impaired glucose tolerance could signal an increased risk for diabetes and CVD. In addition, this test can help diagnose and treat carbohydrate metabolic disorders, including:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Idiopathic hypoglycemia
- Pancreatic islet cell neoplasm
Note that you'll need to abstain from eating or drinking for at least eight hours before you undergo this test.
If your glucose test comes back low, you might consider an insulin test, as well.
If you're unable to produce enough insulin, or if your cells are resistant to its effects, glucose is unable to reach most of the cells in your body, causing them to starve.
This triggers your blood glucose in your blood to rise to an unhealthy level. In turn, this upsets your normal metabolic processes, resulting in various disorders and conditions, including:
- Kidney disease
- Vision problems
- Neurological problems
13. High-Sensitivity CRP
If you have inflammation in your body, your levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) will increase.
A high-sensitivity CRP test can identify and isolate any instances of inflammation. You can use these results to evaluate your risk of developing coronary artery disease. This is a condition linked to inflammation that narrows the arteries of your heart, which can lead to a heart attack.
Standing for thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH is a chemical that your anterior pituitary gland produces.
It stimulates your thyroid, which is a small butterfly-shaped gland located inside of your neck in front of your windpipe. To do so, it binds to your internal TSH receptor, releasing hormones known as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) into your bloodstream.
Unusually large amounts of T4 and T3 can lead to an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Symptoms of this condition include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Weight loss
- Hand tremors
- Irritated eyes
- Difficulty sleeping
15. Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO)
When you ingest certain nutrients, such as choline and L-carnitine, your gut bacteria then break them down, producing a compound called trimethylamine (TMA). From there, your liver converts TMA into a compound called trimethylene N-oxide (TMAO).
High levels of TMAO are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, notably those related to clotting events, such as heart attacks and strokes. This test measures the levels of TMAO in your blood.
Both B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and N-terminal pro-b-type natriuretic peptide (NTproBNP) are peptides.
On a normal basis, your heart produces small quantities of these peptides. However, it amplifies the amounts when it senses that it needs to work harder. An NT-proBNP test can help identify your risk of heart disease, including congestive heart failure (CHF).
17. Global Risk Score (GRS)
This is a tool that can help rate your individual risk of developing heart disease or of having a heart attack within a given timeframe, such as the next 10 years.
It can help you determine your absolute risk of having a coronary heart disease event (such as a myocardial infarction). Your GRS is based on an empiric equation that takes into account major risk factors, including your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
18. Myeloperoxidase Antibody (MPO)
Myeloperoxidase Antibody (MPO) is an inflammatory enzyme derived from your white blood cells. It measures disease activity from the luminal aspect of your arterial wall.
When your artery wall is inflamed or damaged, MPO levels rise. Elevated levels can predict the risk of heart disease or future cardiovascular events. In fact, individuals with high MPO levels are more than two times as likely to experience cardiovascular mortality than those with normal levels.
Also known as a PLAC test, this measures the amount of lipoprotein-associated phospholipase, or Lp-PLA2, present in your bloodstream.
This enzyme is associated with low-density lipoprotein or LDL. When LDL carries Lp-PLA2 to your coronary artery walls, it makes them inflamed. If there is any plaque present there, it's more prone to rupture. Thus, high levels of Lp-PLA2 can indicate an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
20. Vitamin D
Vitamin D and heart health go hand-in-hand.
If your levels of this essential nutrient are too low, it could signal that you're at risk of a cardiovascular event. In addition to the conditions associated with CVD, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, a deficiency can also lead to:
- Heart attack
- Congestive heart failure
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Stroke and the
A Vitamin D test can measure the level of this vitamin in your blood.
Troponin T or troponin I proteins are present in your blood. They're released when the muscles in your heart become damaged, such as with a heart attack.
This test can measure the levels of these proteins in your blood. The more damage there is to your heart, the greater the amounts will be. This makes it a key way to determine if a heart attack has occurred.
22. Urine Albumin-Creatinine Ratio
Albumin is a major protein that's normally present in your blood. If your kidneys are functioning as they should, virtually no albumin should be present in your urine.
On the other hand, creatine is a byproduct of muscle metabolism that's released into your urine at a constant rate. By comparing the two via urine analysis, a Urine Albumin-Creatinine Ratio test helps to indicate how much albumin is being released into your urine.
People with consistently detectable amounts of albumin in their urine have a condition known as albuminuria. This population has an increased risk of developing progressive kidney failure and cardiovascular disease in the future.
This is a blood test that measures the levels of a protein called B-Type Natriuretic Peptide, or BNP, that your heart and blood vessels produce.
If you have heart failure or are at risk of developing heart failure, your BPN levels will be higher than normal.
24. APOE Genotyping
Apolipoprotein E (Apo E) is a protein that helps your body transport lipids (fats and cholesterol) in your blood.
The APOE genotyping test is used to evaluate your DNA to determine what APOE forms (called alleles) are present within it. For reference, APOE e3/e3 is the most common genotype and is considered "neutral."
On the other hand, APOE e4 is found in nearly a quarter of the population and is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis. This is a disease characterized by the deposition of fatty plaques on the inner walls of your arteries.
If this test finds these genotypes, it could signal that you're predisposed to a significantly elevated level of LDL-C (or "bad cholesterol") and triglycerides. This is especially the case if your diet is high in saturated fat.
25. Apolipoprotein A1
This test measures the level of apolipoprotein in your blood.
Apolipoprotein A1 is a protein that's carried in HDL cholesterol or "good" cholesterol.
It helps initiate the process that enables HDL to remove bad types of cholesterol from your body. This means that apolipoprotein A can help lower your risk for CVD.
26. MTHFR Mutation
Standing for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, the MTHFR gene includes the code required to produce the MTHFR enzyme. It plays a role in the process that converts homocysteine into methionine, which is an important building block for many proteins.
An MTHFR Mutation test is designed to detect two of the most common mutations in this gene.
These MTHFR variants are called C677T and A1298C. Individuals can inherit one or both of them.
If these are present, they can change your DNA, decreasing MTHFR activity, and increasing homocysteine levels in your blood. This may increase your risk of premature CVD, as well as the formation of inappropriate blood clots (thrombosis), or stroke.
27. Cardiac Risk Assessment
This is a comprehensive group of health factors that can help determine your chance of having a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack.
Upon completion of this assessment, you should be able to rank your risk level as slight, moderate, or high. Overall, the most important blood test for cardiac risk assessment is your lipid profile.
Order These Critical Blood Tests Online
When it comes to your cardiovascular health, you can't afford to take any chances. You need access to a platform that allows you to order these important blood tests online at any time.
That's where we come in.
We offer a wide range of lab tests designed to help you gain clearer insights into everything from the condition of your heart to the vitamins in your diet.
If you need help understanding the health of your heart, we'd love to help. We offer these key cardiovascular lab tests as part of our selection of 2,000 lab tests, and we provide explanations for each biomarker.
To help you identify organize the lab tests that may be of value to you, we have links to four cardiovascular panels below. Each Heart Panel includes a group of tests to help you establish your baseline biomarkers and understand the health of your heart based on your health heart assessment.
CVD - 1. Low Heart Health Risk
CVD - 2. Moderate Heart Health Risk
CVD - 3. High Heart Health Risk
CVD - 4. High Heart Health Risk Plus
You can select your lab tests, order directly online, choose a convenient patient service center near you, and review your test results typically in 1 to 2 days after your blood is collected.
Take charge of your health and get tested today at ultalabtests.com.