What Is a Lipoprotein (a) Test?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on February 14, 2024
3 min read

Lipoprotein (a) is a low-density lipoprotein that transports cholesterol in the blood. The lipoprotein (a) test — or Lp(a) test — determines the level of this lipoprotein in the blood, and its results are used to diagnose several diseases, especially those related to the heart. 

High blood lipoprotein (a) levels may mean that you have a high risk of heart disease and stroke. 

One in five Americans may have risky levels of lipoprotein (a) in their blood. But the lipoprotein (a) test is not performed in most routine medical checkups, so many people with high lipoprotein (a) levels are unaware of their condition.

Your doctor may recommend the lipoprotein (a) test to diagnose heart conditions. In some cases, the doctors may use the test to screen for the risk of heart disease or stroke before the actual illness starts showing any symptoms. 

The test results may also show if you need to use cholesterol-lowering medications. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also recommend other tests like: 

  • Complete cholesterol profile 
  • Complete lipid profile 
  • Cardiac catheterization 
  • Stress test 
  • Electrocardiography 

Your blood lipoprotein (a) levels normally stay constant. However, genetics play a big role; if you have family members with elevated lipoprotein (a) levels, you are more likely to have it. 

Some medical conditions can also increase these levels, including:

  • Renal failure
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Hypercholesterolemia, an excess level of blood cholesterol 
  • Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland
  • Estrogen depletion 
  • Nephrotic syndrome, a condition in which the kidneys swell, blood cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) levels increase, and protein levels are low

Before the test, you’ll have to fast for 9 to 12 hours. This means you can’t eat, smoke, or drink anything except water before the test.

If you’ve recently had a fever, your doctor may ask you to wait a few days before getting the test done. Make sure you speak to your doctor about any medications you’ve been taking or recent health concerns. 

The lipoprotein (a) test is just like any other blood test. A blood sample will be taken from your arm and sent to a lab for analysis. Your doctor will review the test results and talk to you about them.

The normal range of lipoprotein (a) is 30 milligrams or less per deciliter. If you have more lipoprotein (a) in your blood than usual, your doctor will talk to you about recommendations to lower your risk of heart disease.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs that lower blood Lp(a) cholesterol levels.

Although lifestyle does not have a significant impact on your lipoprotein (a) levels, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk factors for developing heart disease: 

  • Maintain a healthy diet. A healthy diet low in saturated fats can keep you safe from heart disease. You should also cut out refined carbs and processed foods from your diet. Instead, eat healthy greens and foods with fiber. 
  • Control your weight. Obesity is another risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight can help keep heart problems at bay, especially if you have high lipoprotein (a) levels. 
  • Quit smoking. Smoking puts you at risk for heart disease and lung cancer. Therefore, quitting smoking can help take you toward a healthier lifestyle. 
  • Exercise regularly. Your doctor will advise you to exercise regularly to maintain your heart health. As a general rule, you should do moderate physical activity for 30 minutes every day for at least 5 days a week.