Cholesterol Tests


Blood contains substances called biomarkes that may indicate risk of heart disease, but right now the cost of a biomarker test may outweighs its value.

Biomarkers are substances in the blood that may indicate risk of cardiovascular disease. Biomarkers are not routinely measured at this time because it in unknown whether they add value to the traditional evaluation of risk factors that doctors currently perform. Biomarkers of cardiovascular disease include:

  • homocysteine (evidence suggests that homocysteine, an amino acid, oxidizes LDL, which damages the arteries; however, studies have also shown that when levels of homocysteine are reduced using folic acid and vitamin B12, the risk of coronary heart disease is not similarly reduced)
  • fibrinogen (a high level of fibrinogen, an essential protein for the coagulation of blood, has been associated with an increased risk of coronary thrombosis, or heart attack resulting from a blood clot in the artery)
  • C-reactive protein, or CRP (this protein is produced by the liver and released into the bloodstream during episodes of inflammation)
  • B-type natriuretic peptide (this amino acid chain is released into the bloodstream when heart failure develops)
  • D-dimer (increased levels of this substance -- made up of a fragment of blood clot -- suggest an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, or blood clots in the lungs)

A recent study by Framingham Heart Study researchers evaluated the usefulness of measuring many of the most-used biomarkers to see if they could predict death and major cardiovascular events better than the traditional evaluation that doctors perform using the Framingham 10-year risk scoring, which determines short-term risk of coronary heart disease.

They found that the biomarkers predicted risk only slightly better but that this did not warrant routine measurement and the increased costs associated with the tests. However, the researchers also concluded that measuring certain markers -- for which the tests were inexpensive, such as CRP -- could help doctors determine the level of therapeutic intensity for both high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Tests that indicate subclinical atherosclerosis may provide information about coronary heart disease. Learn more about subclinical atherosclerosis on the next page.

For more information on cholesterol, see.

  • Cholesterol Levels: We all know there's "good" and "bad" cholesterol. Find out why you need more of one kind of cholesterol and less of the other.
  • Causes of High Cholesterol: Diet and DNA are the main causes of high cholesterol. Learn why the numbers might be high in your case.
  • Consequences of High Cholesterol: High cholesterol can lead to a heart attack. Learn more  about high cholesterol and heart attack and what other conditions high cholesterol contributes to.
  • How to Lower Cholesterol: Like many conditions, eating right and exercising helps control cholesterol. Learn what that means for you.
  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is essential to the body. Find out why we need it and how much is too much.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.