Inflammation is not just something that affects the joints and connective tissues of the body. Recent studies have linked inflammation of the arteries to heart attack and stroke. While there are four major risk factors that may contribute to an increased risk of heart related illness or event, as many as 50% of all cases do not present with these classic markers. In these cases, doctors are linking inflammation of the arteries to the, sometimes, fatal effects of heart attack and stroke.
Inflammation of the arteries can be measured using inflammatory markers. The PLAC test is the only testing procedure currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. The test was originally used to test for risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who fell into the high risk category for heart problems as defined by certain common tests and questionnaires. Today, the PLAC test is proving to aid the medical community in much more than testing patients with noticeable higher risk.
When plaque gathers in the arteries, these arteries tend to become inflamed. Once inflammation occurs, Lp-PLA2 (Lipoprotein-associated Phospholipase A2) is released into the blood stream. The PLAC test measures the amount of Lp-PLA2 in the blood. In patients without the common warning signs, if inflammation is occurring in the arteries for some other reason, the Lp-PLA2 test will still measure higher protein levels.
The Lp-PLA2 is an inflammatory marker. This marker works to give the attending physician insider information on what is happening in the heart. According to trial completed by the Mayo Clinic, 95% of the people who were given the Lp-PLA2 test who scored below 200 did NOT have a heart attack or stroke in the following four years. These patients all had coronary artery disease. The potential for ruling out heart related risk in all patients is generally the same.
In addition to testing for Lp-PLA2, other inflammatory markers are also being tested for in relation to inflammation in the body. CRP, C-reactive protein) and alpha-lipoprotein may test higher in patients who are more likely to suffer from joint and connective tissue inflammation. Small amounts of CRP are common, but larger amounts could mean the body is inflamed and in need of repair to reduce pain. Injury to a specific area or an infection can also cause an increase in CRP. When CRP levels test high for a long period of time, doctors may see this as an indicator of potential systemic inflammation.
Many doctors choose to stay away from alternative inflammatory marker testing because they have little training in natural medicine. Alternative therapists tend to treat high inflammatory marker results with dietary changes and changes in daily activity levels. Inflammatory marker levels are retested periodically to record if the changes have affected the protein levels.