The general cholesterol profile, also known as the lipid panel, is what most people are used to having done during their general check-ups. Its purpose is to predict the chances of having heart problems down the road and guide decisions about what should be done to attenuate such risk, from using statin medications to recommendations on diet and lifestyle.

Heart Health Month

February is heart health month, so it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on the type of testing that is actually a better indication of the need for treatment or further testing regarding heart disease risk. These newer blood tests are not complicated and should be used as the best way to assess risk, as written about in a recent article from the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Sweden. 

The article, entitled A New Way of Identifying early risk of cardiovascular disease, advocates that new guidelines should be written to include the measurement of the proteins that carry “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, called Apo A1 and Apo B, respectively, because these are more accurate measures of risk. This is important because the earlier risk of a heart attack or stroke is detected, the sooner preventive measures can be taken.

They studied 137,000 men and women to prove that the ratio of apoB/apoA-1 successfully predicts such risk better than regular cholesterol levels.

In fact, in their study, which mirrors other similar findings, Individuals with the highest apoB/apoA-1 values had a 70 percent greater risk of severe cardiovascular disease and almost triple the risk of heart attack compared with those with the lowest apoB/apoA-1 values. The relationship was observed in both men and women, and the elevated levels could be detected as early as 20 years before the onset of cardiovascular disease.

Such testing is routinely included in the biomarkers used in my practice and in other integrative and functional medicine practices. Hopefully, it will start to be used more widely among all primary care providers as part of the general health check-up.

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Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.