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Congestive Heart Failure

Instructions

Some labs require 10 to 12 hours of fasting before taking a blood test for congestive heart failure, while other labs do not require fasting.  Individuals should check with their care providers and their blood work lab to get information on fasting requirements.  For labs that do require fasting, individuals are still allowed to drink water and take their normal medications and supplements.  Often multiple heart health related blood tests are ordered at the same time.  Many of these other tests do have consistent fasting requirements.  It is important to be aware of and check the parameters of all tests that are taken simultaneously.

Why It Is Used

The B-type natriuretic peptide blood test, also known as the brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) test, is used for detecting congestive heart failure.  This test is used to assess how hard the heart is working to keep the blood pumping through the body and to determine if the heart is pumping the blood well enough.  The test is most often ordered for patients who are at risk of heart failure, but may also be ordered for individuals who experience abnormal swelling in their arms or legs or who suffer from extreme shortness of breath in response to mild physical activity. 

How It Works

The BNP blood test works by measuring the level of BNP hormones in the blood.  Congestive heart failure refers to sub-optimal functioning of the heart, where it no longer pumps blood as well or as efficiently as it should.  This reduced rate of blood flow causes a backup of fluids in the body.  This causes increased pressure around the heart and can also cause swelling in the arms, legs, liver, and lungs.  BNP hormones are released into the blood when there is increased pressure on the heart and then the hormone levels go back down again as the heart stabilizes and is able to move the fluids through the system.  The level of BNP hormones in the blood is used to estimate the level of pressure experienced by the heart.

Results

Very high levels of BNP indicate that the heart is under a lot of pressure and is not functioning optimally.  Moderately high or only slightly raised levels of BNP may indicate that there is a heart problem, but that the heart is stabilized and working properly.  Normal levels of BNP hormones in the blood indicate lack of current or past history of congestive heart failure. 

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