By now, most of us have heard about the differences between LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). And you’re likely aware of the risks of elevated LDL levels, such as chest pain, heart disease, and stroke.
What exactly defines the two types of cholesterol? HDL picks up excess cholesterol in your body and transports it back to the liver. LDL, on the other hand, distributes cholesterol particles throughout your body, leading to a build-up in the arteries. Lp(a) further increases this build-up and your risk for complications.
What Is Lp(a)?
As a subtype of LDL, Lp(a) is the most plaque-forming cholesterol particle. When combined with inflamed blood vessels, elevated levels of Lp(a) cause arteries to harden and narrow due to plaque deposits. When your arteries become obstructed, it restricts blood flow and leads to the complications mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Unlike LDL in general, Lp(a) is mostly determined by genetics instead of lifestyle. In fact, high Lp(a) is the biggest inherited risk factor for aortic narrowing and early coronary artery disease. It has been found that people with high Lp(a) are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and increasingly more studies are linking elevated Lp(a) to stroke and heart attack risks.
How Is Lp(a) Tested?
Unfortunately, Lp(a) isn’t measured by standard cholesterol profiles. This is a problem, since one in five people possess high levels of the substance. Here are a few warning signs to look for in order to determine whether you require advanced blood work:
- A family history of early cardiovascular disease
- Personal heart attack or stroke with no known risk factors present (such as smoking or high LDL levels)
- Kidney disease
- Serious diabetes
If you suspect you may be at risk for high Lp(a) based on the above warning signs, advanced blood work can be done that more thoroughly evaluates and analyzes your LDL and HDL profiles.
At Matrix Age Management, we know the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle no matter your age so that you can stay active and continue doing the things you love.
While making healthy changes to diet and other habits will certainly improve your cholesterol, it’s important to also address the issue of hidden risk factors like Lp(a). Our health experts can help. Reach out to us to get started.