Because June is National Men’s Health Month, we’re taking a moment to talk about the #1 Men’s Health issue, often described as a “silent killer”: Heart Disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in U.S. males, responsible for 24.4%, according to the CDC’s most recent listing (2015). Between 70% and 89% of sudden cardiac events that occur are in men.
Why Heart Disease is Called a “Silent Killer”
According to the CDC, half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have had no previous symptoms. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease like:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Atherosclerosis – when plaque builds up inside your arteries
all do their damage “silently,” meaning they typically don’t result in symptoms that can be perceived until significant damage has already been done.
It’s important to take note that even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.
Take Control Of Your Risk For Heart Disease
The good news is that cardiovascular disease is commonly preventable or resolvable if patients and practitioners take a proactive approach.
Regular blood screening is crucial for understanding your current state of health, tracking progress, and measuring your associated risk, to hopefully stop a problem before it becomes a problem.
You can only change what you can see.
Here are some key heart health biomarker information and tools we hope will empower you or a loved one to discover more about their health.
Let’s Start With the Basics
There are some basic heart health markers you want to pay attention to. A traditional Cholesterol Test (a lipid panel) will examine these biomarkers:
- Total Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. Your body actually needs cholesterol to stay healthy and function correctly!
- LDL: LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. LDL is often referred to as the “bad,” less helpful type of cholesterol because it can transport cholesterol to the walls of arteries and clog them, obstructing the transport of oxygen-rich blood, which is essential for a healthy and functioning heart and brain. When your arteries are clogged with a greater numbers of these small, dense LDL particles, this puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Therefore, by lowering your LDL cholesterol, you can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- HDL: HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. HDL is often referred to as the “good,” helpful cholesterol. This is because HDL cholesterol acts as a “scavenger” of excess cholesterol, bringing extra cholesterol from arteries and the body back to the liver to be metabolized. Because of HDL’s ability to grab excess cholesterol, this means that the higher levels of HDL cholesterol you have – greater than 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) – the more protected you are against heart disease.
- Triglycerides: The main type of fat (lipid) in your blood. Want more? Check out4 Causes of High Triglyceride Levels and Ways to Lower Your Own Levels
Knowing these markers shows helps to show you part of the picture of your heart health.
When it comes to a complete picture of heart health, however, you’ll want to pay attention to the lipid particle numbers and sizes that make up your lipoprotein profile.
Let’s Move On to the Advanced Stuff
With cardiovascular risk, higher numbers of smaller, more dense particles increase your cardiovascular risk, compared to lower numbers of larger, less dense particles.
Therefore, those with patterns of higher counts of smaller particles have a more concerning lipoprotein profile than those with less particles with greater size. Because of this, you’ll want to test markers of all healthier and unhealthier lipid particles, such as:
- ApoA1: Key binding protein of HDL to tissues, decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease
- ApoB: The protein in bad LDL cholesterol that helps these particles bind to and clog blood vessels. Because ApoB increases this clogging, your ApoB level may be a better measure of cardiovascular risk than even LDL cholesterol. High levels of ApoB increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and by lowering your ApoB, you can reduce your risk for a heart attack and stroke.
- Lipoprotein (a) or LP(a): A type of LDL cholesterol, . It doesn’t have exactly the same function – scientists still aren’t exactly sure how LP(a) contributes to CVD but there are many theories. One is that LP(a) increases inflammation and scarring of blood vessels, which can contribute to the buildup of plaque. Other thought is that LP(a) acts similar to certain particles that break up clotting but without that function, fooling the body into making more clots, which can also block blood vessels and lead to a heart attack and stroke. Whatever the exact cause, scientists are sure that LP(a) are correlated with CV risk. Your Lp(a) level is determined by your genes and isn’t generally affected by lifestyle. Lp(a) is often tested if you have a family history of early-onset heart disease or sudden death.
For an even more comprehensive assessment, in addition to lipid particle numbers and sizes, you can test these additional biomarkers:
- Free Fatty Acids: Amount of fatty acids in the blood, which in excess, increases risk of cardiovascular disease
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids that can decrease inflammation and risk of many chronic diseases
There are also biomarkers that examine markers of inflammation and risk of clotting:
- hs-CRP: High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein measures inflammation, which has been associated with numerous diseases in addition to cardiovascular disease, such as dementia, diabetes, cancer, and even depression. Read the 3 reasons you need to be tracking this biomarker.
- Fibrinogen: Inflammatory and clotting protein associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
- Homocysteine: Inflammatory and clotting protein associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases
Related reading: 5 Supplements Critical for Men’s Health. Check out our blog post and webcast with Dr. John La Puma, MD, FACP, where we discussed men’s health, covering insightful topics ranging from balancing male hormones and minimizing harmful belly fat, to how to stay fit as you age.
How WellnessFX Can Help
WellnessFX exists because we think the healthcare experience can be so much better. Instead of focusing on “sick care,”we focus on managing and optimizing health before illness hits.
WellnessFX’s Advanced Heart Health test offers a comprehensive insight about your heart health and your risk for cardiovascular disease. All the biomarkers listed in this blog post are in the Advanced Heart Health Panel.
Our advanced heart diagnostic test includes tests that you may have a hard time ordering through your doctor. And because of our bulk discount, these advanced tests are generally also less expensive than ordering through your doctor – even if you have insurance!
Your results are automatically uploaded to a user-friendly, color-coded dashboard 3-7 days after testing. Easily and quickly understand where you’re doing great and what can be improved.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.