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What Is Brain Natriuretic Peptide Test & Why It Matters

By April 12, 2022No Comments

Affecting millions of people in the United States, heart diseases are causing significant problems, especially to the well-being of the senior population. However, thanks to the advances in medical science, now you can diagnose your heart condition before it escalates to other more severe forms. This is when a brain natriuretic peptide test shows its efficiency.

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Learn How a Brain Natriuretic Peptide Test Can Protect You From Heart Failure

What Is Brain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) Test?

Brain Natriuretic Peptide

Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a protein produced in specific concentrations in the ventricles in response to blood pressure abnormalities. As a part of the body’s natural defense system meant to protect the heart from overload, BNP functions to keep the blood vessels dilated, allowing normal blood circulation and preventing the formation of blood clots. Because BNP has a role in vasodilation; and high BNP means your heart may not be working correctly, BNP is used as a biomarker to diagnose congestive heart failure (CHF) and develop CHF treatment and prevention strategies.


Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart muscle is weakened, leading to the inability to pump sufficient blood to provide for other organs and the build-up of fluid in the body. In CHF, the tissues are deprived of the oxygen-rich blood necessary for everyday functions. This lack of oxygen-rich blood leads to several serious consequences, including breathing problems, confusion, tiredness, and impaired kidney function. The most common causes of CHF include coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, and hypertension. Other causes are viral infections, excessive alcohol use, and genetic disorders.


BNP Testing in the Intervention of CHF

Since the heart ventricles produce more BNP to help regulate blood pressure and alleviate fluid build-up in the body when CHF occurs, a BNP test is performed to diagnose or rule out heart failure. Suppose you have already been diagnosed with heart failure. In that case, the test helps your doctor decide what treatments you need, find out the severity of the condition, or whether the current treatment is working. In some cases, a BNP test shows if your heart failure has exacerbated and requires urgent medical attention.


How Is a BNP Test Performed?

Woman-Suffering-With-Morning-Sickness-ss-body | What Is Brain Natriuretic Peptide Test & Why It Matters

You should have your doctor perform a BNP test on you if you have symptoms of congestive heart failure, including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormally high heart rate
  • Constant coughing
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Swelling in the abdomen, legs, or feet
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Nausea or loss of appetite


During a BNP test, your doctor will use a small needle to draw blood from your arm. After collecting a small amount of your blood, your doctor will use a test tube or vial to hold the blood sample. The test tube is then placed in a machine that measures BNP concentration. The entire process usually takes less than 15 minutes.


What Is a Normal BNP Level?

In general, results of 100 picograms/milliliter (pg/mL) or less indicate that you do not have heart failure. However, normal BNP levels may vary with age and gender. BNP increases as you age, and you may have slightly higher levels if you are a female. In addition, regular physical exertion and stress may temporarily raise your BNP levels. This is why the patient is usually advised to stay calm during the test for the most accurate result.


What Is a Dangerous BNP Level?

A result higher than 100 pg/mL is abnormal and indicates that you may have heart failure. The higher the result, the more likely you have heart failure and the more you need urgent medical attention. However, do not overlook the impact of low BNP since low BNP levels can also imply heart failure. According to a report, a small number of people hospitalized for conditions similar to heart failure had BNP levels lower than usual.

Specifically, deficient BNP levels, measured at below 50 pg/ml, were found in a small percentage of hospitalized patients with heart failure. A smaller percentage of patients had too low BNP levels that tests failed to determine any value. Although the cause of these incidents was not fully understood, scientists believed that high body mass index and obesity might be the possible determinant of low BNP.

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How Accurate Is a BNP Test?

Research has confirmed that a typical BNP test offers 98 percent accuracy in diagnosing heart failure, allowing doctors to focus on the suspected condition rather than looking for others that cause similar symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and swelling in the abdomen. As mentioned earlier, BNP levels increase naturally with age. Therefore, the same BNP values seen in younger patients may not be correct when testing older patients. Instead, in older patients with suspected CHF, BNP levels only from 900 pg/ml indicate heart problems.

Since mild CHF can be difficult to detect, and several other diseases have the same symptoms as CHF, a BNP test is often accompanied by other diagnostic tests such as a chest X-ray to conclude the condition accurately. Any additional tests will only help confirm the patient’s exact situation most conclusively. Therefore, consult your doctor about the need for a BNP or any complementary test to plan an early and effective treatment option.

Early diagnosis of heart failure allows you to receive prompt and effective treatment to prevent any irreversible complications. A BNP test is a widely available and affordable procedure that has shown its efficiency in primary healthcare.


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