You probably know that doctors and health care experts recommend getting your cholesterol levels checked. While knowing your cholesterol levels provides important information, there are other indicators of heart and circulatory system health that are currently available and equally important as well.

First let’s take a look at what cholesterol levels indicate.  Cholesterol, a fat which our bodies naturally produce, performs important functions, such as assisting with hormone production and communication within the nervous system. Unfortunately, when too much LDL, low density (bad) cholesterol is consumed or produced, the sticky cholesterol deposits on the inner walls of the heart and blood vessels, causing narrowing of vessels and an increased potential for blood clots to form.

HDL, high density (good) cholesterol, is a hard, healthy form of cholesterol. Having a healthy ratio of HDL to LDL promotes wellness of the circulatory system.

Triglyceride levels are commonly measured. Triglycerides are “generic” fats that circulate in the bloodstream as well. Elevated triglycerides are associated with higher levels of heart attack and stroke.

CRP, C-reactive protein is a very important indicator of heart and blood vessel health. CRP measures inflammation within the body. Atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and other vascular diseases develop partially as a result of inflammation. The more we are learning about how the body functions, the more the role of inflammation is being identified in the development of disease.

Additional tests are available which are less commonly used and not needed as general screening measures. Others are being investigated for possible use in the future. Scientists are continually looking at improve methods of detecting and preventing heart and circulatory system disease.

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