With promising new therapies on the horizon, cardiologists are testing more people for this biomarker, known as Lp(a).
About one in five people has high blood levels of fatty particles called lipoprotein(a), which doctors refer to as "L-P-little a" or Lp(a). Think of it as the evil twin of the familiar low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol.
"Lp(a) particles are similar to LDL particles but with an apolipoprotein(a) molecule wrapped around each one," says cardiologist Dr. Christopher Cannon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Lp(a) accelerates the buildup of fatty plaque inside arteries and inflammation even more than LDL does. A high Lp(a) level may double or even triple a person’s risk of a heart attack. It also raises the risk of stroke and is linked to a narrowing of the aortic valve (aortic stenosis).
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
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