What might be a day that flies under the radar for most people, Lipoprotein(a) Awareness Day allows us to shine some light on the issue that is excessive Lp(a) levels.
Lipoprotein(a) is made by the liver and has been identified as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to Heart UK. It is thought to be inherited in our genes and is increasingly recognized as the strongest known genetic risk factor for premature coronary artery disease.
This under-diagnosed genetic condition deserves a significantly larger amount of attention. AMGEN state that recent studies of people with high Lp(a) have a two-to-four fold increased risk of heart attack and other serious events compared to those with low levels.
1. What is Lipoprotein(a)?
Lp(a) is similar to LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) found in our cholesterol levels, however it has an added protein known as APO(a). This protein can block our arteries, increase plaque build-up, and has a clotting behaviour which hugely increases our risk of heart attack and stroke.
2. Cause of High Lipoprotein(a)
High Lp(a) levels are determined by our genetics, therefore your level of Lp(a) at age 5 would be identical to when you are 55. Periods of acute illness and menopause with declining oestrogen levels, can also both cause Lp(a) to increase according to the Family Heart Foundation. Medline Plus advise that you should consider having an Lp(a) test if you have experienced:
- Heart disease, despite normal results on other lipid tests
- High cholesterol, regardless of diet changes
- A family history of heart disease, particularly from an early age and/or sudden deaths from heart disease
3. What is considered a high level of Lipoprotein(a)?
The cardiovascular risk of Lp(a) levels is determined by the concentration of Lp(a) serum in our blood. The Family Heart Foundation report that results over 50 mg/dL or 100 nmol/L are considered high and could increase an individuals’ risk of heart attack and stroke. The important thing to note is that since these levels are genetically determined, you only need to get tested once in a lifetime to evaluate your risk of premature cardiovascular disease.
4. Lipoprotein(a) levels are fixed/static
As Lp(a) levels are genetically determined, they do not change because of lifestyle choices and are usually unaffected by diet. This is good if your levels are normal but if you have high or extremely high levels, how do we lower them? Heart UK suggest that the recommended plan of action for those with high Lp(a) is to manage overall cholesterol levels, particularly LDL, with medication known as a statin. Although the medication doesn’t reduce Lp(a) they will reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, therefore lowering further risk of plaque build-up in our arteries.
5. The purpose of Lp(a) genetic testing & where to get it done
If you are at risk of heart disease, experience high cholesterol levels, even while maintaining a healthy diet, or have a family history of either of these conditions then genetic testing is almost a certainty.
Researchers and geneticists have hope that this will become a common medical practice, and that we feel encouraged to have this test completed just once in our lifetime.
Randox Health provides preventative health care across a range of key health areas, including full body checks, heart health, and most relevant to today, genetic testing.
Our hereditary cardiac testing programme covers 174 different genes related to 17 inherited cardiac conditions including lipid disorders, cardiomyopathies, and arteriopathies. Although it sounds like a lot, the process is simple:
- Arrange a consultation with our Genetic Councillor
- Discuss details of the test, the impact for you and your family, and the use of the results
- Visit our Randox Health, Chelsea clinic where a blood sample will be taken and sent to our labs for evaluation
- Receive results within 6 weeks as well as guidance on what to do next
One consultation in your lifetime, could protect you and close family members from major circulatory issues.