What blood tests might my doctor order if I have a heart problem?

Your doctor may order a number of blood tests if you have a heart problem. Cholesterol testing has been the mainstay of blood testing and if your cholesterol is elevated, medications can bring it down to reduce your risk of heart problems. The high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) test has been a great tool for identifying people at high risk of heart disease. When CRP is elevated doctors know they need to be very aggressive to reduce that person's risk of having a heart attack in the future.

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Here are a few of the most common blood tests your healthcare provider may order to learn more about your heart problem:

  • Blood electrolytes. Checking levels of certain electrolytes can help show the cause of a heart problem or assist in treating it. Electrolytes are important for heart function.
  • Blood cell count. This blood test includes levels of white blood cells (WBCs) and red blood cells (RBCs). This test helps your healthcare provider check for an infection or measure your body's ability to fight infections. It also shows your body's ability to carry oxygen to vital organs such as the heart.
  • Cardiac marker analysis. Damaged heart cells release certain biochemicals. These telltale chemicals are called cardiac markers or cardiac enzymes. Two examples are troponin and CPK-MB. Along with other tests, checking for these markers in your blood can help determine whether or not you have recently suffered (or are suffering) a heart attack.
  • BNP. When the heart is under stress, it releases a biochemical called BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide). Measuring the BNP levels in your blood is one way to detect your risk for coronary artery disease or heart failure.
  • Blood coagulation tests. Anticoagulants (sometimes called "blood thinners") are drugs that cause your blood to take longer to clot. They help prevent dangerous clots from forming in your heart and blood vessels. Yet in doing so, they also bring a risk of excess bleeding throughout your body. That's why, if you're taking an anticoagulant (such as Coumadin), your healthcare provider will order regular blood tests to make sure your blood is clotting at the right level.
  • Glucose test. A glucose (blood sugar) test can help your provider check for diabetes and whether it's in good control. High blood glucose levels can lead to atherosclerosis and artery wall damage. A glucose test may also show if you've had a stressful event (such as a heart attack) that may raise your blood glucose.
  • Lipid tests. These tests check the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and other fatty substances in your blood. Test results help your provider evaluate your risk for coronary artery disease and your body's ability to process fats.
  • hs-CRP. Your healthcare provider may order a high-sensitivity CRP test (hs-CRP) to measure the level of C-reactive protein in your blood. High levels of this protein occur when blood vessels are inflamed—and signal increased risk for heart disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.