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Lipoprotein(a)

li·​po·​pro·​tein a

What is lipoprotein(a)?

Lipoprotein(a) is a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that transports cholesterol, fat, and protein in your blood. Having a high level greatly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. About one in five Americans have an elevated level of lipoprotein(a) that puts them at risk and most (80–90%) of this is inherited at birth.

Even in healthy adults, excess lipoprotein(a) can build up on the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow and, potentially, block blood flow. This can lead to blood clots, a stroke, or a heart attack.


What is a  normal lipoprotein(a) level?

While there is no consensus on lipoprotein(a) levels, a guideline published by the National Lipid Association notes that normal levels are under 30 mg/dL and recommends considering lipoprotein(a) levels greater than 50 mg/dL as high risk¹.


What does a high level of lipoprotein(a) mean?

Elevated levels of lipoprotein(a) can contribute to the buildup of plaque in your arteries and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.


When should I measure my lipoprotein(a) levels?

Testing lipoprotein(a) levels can help you assess your risk for heart disease. The test is recommended if you or a family member had a heart attack when young and seemingly healthy, when an immediate family member has hypercholesterolemia, or you have a familial history of elevated lipoprotein(a)¹.


How can I improve my lipoprotein(a) levels?

Your level of lipoprotein(a) is controlled mainly by your genetics, meaning you should get tested if you have a family member who died suddenly of a heart attack or stroke—especially when they were young—or who has premature vascular disease or familial hypercholesterolemia.

Currently, there are no treatments aimed at decreasing lipoprotein(a) and statins do not affect it. Individuals with high levels of lipoprotein(a) can manage their risk for contracting cardiovascular diseases by taking medications and making appropriate lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol levels.

References

  1. Wilson DP, Jacobson TA, Jones PH, et al. Use of Lipoprotein(a) in clinical practice: a biomarker whose time has come. A scientific statement from the National Lipid Association. J Clin Lipidol 2019;13:374–392.
Last updated:
September 23, 2021

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