Normal values of lipoprotein (a) are below 30 milligrams per deciliter of blood, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The study, which included data from 28,000 women, also found that when women had a lipoprotein level above 65 milligrams per deciliter of blood and an LDL reading above 120 milligrams per deciliter, the risk of heart disease was increased by 80 percent.
"People who have high levels of lipoprotein (a) are more likely to develop heart disease. It's a risk factor," said Dr. Souheil Saba, a cardiologist at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich.
But, he said, it's not a test that's routinely used.
"The main reason we check lipoprotein (a) is for people who have unexplained heart disease and a lack of traditional risk factors," Saba said. Also, if you know someone else in your family has high levels of lipoprotein (a), it's a good idea to get tested to see if your levels are elevated, he added.
Goldberg agreed -- it's not a test for everyone, but for many, it can be extremely valuable.
"It [lipoprotein (a)] is a risk marker for heart disease, but you don't need to jump up and get it tested. Just get the baseline checkup. That's where we pick up obvious risk factors that cause heart disease, like a lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol," she said.
If levels of lipoprotein (a) are elevated, Saba said, there are treatments available.
To learn more, visit the National Lipid Association.
SOURCES: Nieca Goldberg, M.D., director, NYU Langone Medical Center's Women's Heart Program, and associate professor, NYU School of Medicine, New York City, and author, Dr. Nieca Goldberg's Complete Guide to Women's Health
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