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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Making Heart Care a Priority: The proper screenings can reveal issues early on, says Maureen Young at Any Lab Test Now

Oct 31, 2013 03:46PM ● By Maureen Young

We live in a busy world, rushing from task to task. Trying to squeeze so many things into our days might make it difficult to focus on taking care of ourselves and making the right choices for our health, specifically our heart health. We are also bombarded with information about what we "should" be doing. How do we choose the most important thing to focus on: exercising, eating well, reducing stress or taking the right medications and supplements?

There isn't just one answer because everyone is different, and it will take some research and planning to figure it out. Our first step needs to be establishing a health baseline to provide a starting point and something by which to compare all our future choices. Whether we finally make that appointment with our doctor or walk into the lab testing facility we’ve chosen, there are some basic medical tests that we need to get so that we and our doctor can create a plan to get us on track or keep us there if we’re already looking good. Basic tests including a complete blood count, a chemistry panel, a lipid panel, a urinalysis and a blood pressure check.

A vertical auto profile (VAP) test looks more deeply at lipid levels and density to provide a clearer picture of cardiovascular health, and the PLAC test measures Lp-PLA2, a vascular specific inflammatory enzyme that is associated with a very high risk of stroke. Once we know our cholesterol levels, using a basic lipid panel, a VAP test and a PLAC test, we will have a very clear picture of how aggressively we need to change our diet, our exercise level or our medication or supplement regime to protect our heart and keep active and healthy.

The more advanced VAP and the PLAC tests provide very specific information about cholesterol. Often, people have a basic lipid panel and work with their doctor to identify a specific goal. Then they stop and don't look further once they've met their objectives. For example, LDL or "bad" cholesterol can be broken down into additional categories. The VAP test reports on 18 separate components of blood cholesterol, compared to just four in the standard test. This comprehensive cholesterol test can identify more lipid abnormalities (the number one risk factor for heart disease) than the standard test and is the only cholesterol test to identify markers for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes.

If the predominant form of LDL is Lp(a), the risk of heart attack may be as much as 25 times higher than a basic lipid profile will indicate. A high concentration of the lower density, very small lipid particles, VLDV, or the transitional lipid particles, the IDL, is closely related to heart attack risk and coronary heart disease. Because the LDL numbers are combined within the levels reported with the standard cholesterol test, a concentration of the more dangerous lipid particles may go unnoticed.

The PLAC test measures an enzyme, Lp PLA2, that is present in the blood in large quantities when a rupture-prone type of plaque is building up in the blood vessels. This plaque causes ruptures leading to blood clots, stroke and heart attack and are the leading cause of strokes. A high Lp PLA2 level may mean that our LDL levels need to be brought even lower than most people would need.

Taking the initial step of getting the right tests to evaluate our risk of cardiovascular disease can help us begin the process to take the right course of action for caring for our heart. Once we know what the most important thing is when it comes to our heart, the follow-on actions for the best diet, exercise plan and medication or supplements for us can be clearly laid out in conjunction with our doctor.

Maureen A. Young is a customer education advocate for Any Lab Test Now. Connect at

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