Recall that the inflammatory events leading to atherosclerosis are due to the presence of LDL particles which diffuse through the endothelium and into the vessel wall. It makes sense that the more LDL particles there are, the more risk there would be for LDL depositing in the vessel wall. It would seem therefore that measuring the number of LDL particles could be more useful than measuring the cholesterol content of the particles. Traditional measurements of LDL-C quantify the amount of cholesterol associated with all the LDL in a patient sample; they don't tell us how many LDL particles there are. An analogy can be made with battleships. If you wanted to measure the size of a navy that was sailing for your shores, it makes more sense to count the number of ships than to count the amount of cargo the ships carry in order to estimate the number of ships. Of course, it is intuitive that the more LDL-C there is, the greater the number of LDL particles. In that sense, LDL particle number should correlate to LDL cholesterol, and this is indeed true. However, studies now show that measurement of the number of LDL particles is a more powerful predictor of cardiovascular risk. The exact relationship between LDL particle number and cholesterol content actually varies due to the fact that the lipoproteins vary in size and in the ratio of triglycerides to cholesterol. So, although cholesterol is related to LDL particle number, it is not in perfect proportion.How can we then measure LDL particle number? The most obvious way would be to measure apolipoprotein B100 (often abbreviated ApoB). Each LDL particle has one molecule of ApoB attached to it. Therefore, if we measured ApoB, we would be measuring the number of LDL particles, not the contents of those particles, and number appears to be more important with regard to adverse outcomes.
|The hs-CRP Test|
The traditional CRP test uses immunoassay methods that are sensitive to concentrations of 5-20 mg/L. The hs-CRP test, with its increased sensitivity, is able to detect C-reactive protein in lower levels, 0.5-10.0 mg/L. As with most risk markers, the results of hs-CRP testing are generally interpreted on a relative scale; the higher the value, the higher the risk of a future cardiovascular event.The American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has defined risk groups with hs-CRP as follows: Low risk: < 1.0 mg/L Average risk: 1.0 to 3.0 mg/L High risk: > 3.0 mg/L It is important to note that hs-CRP assays are measuring the same protein as traditional CRP assays. Thus, in patients with active inflammation (such as chronic, active arthritis; lupus; infection; etc.) hs-CRP values would be expected to be high and would not necessarily implicate cardiovascular risk. If values greater than 10 mg/L are seen in repeated measurements, a non-cardiovascular cause should be considered. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, aspirin, etc.) or the statin-class of cholesterol-lowering drugs may reduce CRP levels in patients. This is not an artifact, but is thought to be an effect of treating the underlying inflammatory process.
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