Lab Testing for Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term that includes a series of disorders that affect either the heart or the blood vessels. 

Cardiovascular disease is usually the reflection of chronic conditions that evolve over long periods of time. Nevertheless, cardiovascular disease may also trigger acute conditions such as strokes and heart attacks. These conditions occur unexpectedly when a blood vessel gets blocked and stops supplying the heart or the brain with blood. 

Most people use the term CVD to describe medical conditions that are associated with atherosclerosis, the thickening of arteries as a result of plaque build-up that prevents the blood from flowing freely through these vessels. 

Risk Factors 

Cardiovascular is more frequent among people who have hypertension, who have high blood cholesterol, who are overweight, who lead a sedentary life, who smoke, or who have diabetes. Therefore, public health services focus on keeping the CVD rate under control by recommending people to: 

  • Switch to a healthy diet 
  • Become more active by exercising regularly 
  • Avoid or quit smoking 
  • Keep their diabetes at bay by monitoring their blood sugar levels 

Unfortunately, some risk factors are impossible to control, including family history, gender, and age.  As the older one gets, the higher their risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Men have a higher risk of heart disease; however, women’s risk also increases to equal that of males after menopause. A family history of coronary heart disease or stroke before 55 years of age for a male first-degree relative or before 65 years of age for a female relative increases the risk. 

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology developed a series of guidelines for CVD risk assessment. Their main goal was to come up with a more accurate and exhaustive definition of the major factors involved in assessing the CVD risk. They also aimed to provide ways to reduce this risk by treatment and by choosing a healthier lifestyle. For instance, they released a downloadable software tool to predict 10-year and lifetime CVD risk values. This tool is intended for individuals between 40 and 79 years of age. This model takes into consideration a range of factors such as age, gender, race, blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking habits, and the presence of diabetes. Some experts found this tool inaccurate, saying that it overestimated the risk, and therefore leading to more people treated with statins than necessary. Scientists who agreed with the tool found it a valuable resource, much better than any other risk calculator already available. The guidelines also stress the importance and the contribution of good doctor-patient communication concerning making the best treatment decisions for each patient. 

Types of CVD 

Here are some of the conditions that fall under the CVD umbrella: 

Coronary heart disease and coronary artery disease – they may lead to various conditions such as angina, heart attack, congestive failure, stroke, transient ischemic attacks, peripheral vascular disease, blood flow obstructions, aneurysms, and even gangrene. 

Other types of conditions may affect either the heart or the blood vessels. You can find more information on these conditions in our Heart Disease and Vasculitis articles. Here are a few of these diseases: 

  • Congenital heart disease – malformation of the very structure of the heart occurring during development 
  • Valvular disease – defective valves (either congenital or acquired) 
  • Cardiomyopathy – weaker heart muscle 
  • Myocarditis – the inflammation of the myocardium (heart muscle) 
  • Vasculitis – the inflammation of blood vessels 
  • Thrombosis – blood clots occurring in the veins that can migrate to other parts of the body, causing embolism 
  • Atrial fibrillation – the irregular beating of the heart that can lead to severe medical complications such as blood clots, heart failure, and stroke

The WHO estimates that CVD is responsible for 30% of all global deaths. Over 80% of these deaths occur in middle- and low-income countries, where people are more exposed to risk factors and have poor access to proper health care and preventative measures. Since CVD is the leading cause of death at a global level, it is a major concern of all governments and international medical organizations worldwide. Careful monitoring of individuals at risk can help to control the disease and decrease the number of deaths. 

Laboratory Tests:

 High-sensitivity C-reactiveCholesterol (with focus on LDL cholesterol), Triglycerides countLipid countAPOE Geno-typingLipoprotein ALp-PLA2FibrinogenHomocysteineApo A-IApo BMTHFR Mutation, Cardiac Risk Assessment