Ever Heard of lipoprotein(a)?
Try asking your primary care doctor if they’ve ever checked your lipoprotein(a) level. If it’s high, do they know what to do about it? Lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a]), pronounced literally as ‘little-a,’ is something that rarely gets checked in primary care. It’s not something that gets a lot of attention, in the United States anyway, but it needs to become a routine screening. It only ever needs to be done once – as you either have elevated levels of it, or you don’t.
What Exactly is It?
Lipoprotein(a) is a type of apoB particle (read about apoB here) – having the same density as an LDL-particle as measured in the lab – that has an extra protein, called a Kringle, attached to it. Lipoprotein(a) can lead to an increase in atherosclerosis (plaque deposited in the artery wall), aortic stenosis (narrowing of a heart valve opening), and a potential for faster development of blood clots (suspected to perhaps be an evolutionary advantage).
Apolipoprotein B particles, the right which has the additional Lp(a) kringle attached.
Illustration credit: Thomas Dayspring, MD, FACP, FNLA.
Why You Should Care
To make it simple, there’s an increased risk of having a heart attack or other cardiovascular issues if your Lp(a) level is elevated. There is some good scientific data that has established a strong link between Lp(a) and a number of different adverse cardiovascular problems, maily heart attack (4x increased risk); aortic stenosis (3x increased risk); and coronary atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries in the heart) (5x increased risk).
What Can You Do About It?
There are a few approaches that are routinely used to reduce the risk from Lp(a):