The Importance of Cardiac Enzymes

The Importance of Cardiac Enzymes
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  • 0:01 Ways to Monitor Heart Health
  • 0:27 Creatine Kinase
  • 2:39 What Is Troponin?
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson discusses the importance of two markers of heart disease that can be measured via the blood. They are creatine kinase and troponin, and we'll discuss what may cause their levels in the blood to increase.

Ways to Monitor Heart Health

It goes without saying that monitoring your heart health is super important. There are thankfully many tests that can be conducted in order to do this - everything from using a stethoscope and taking a listen to using an echocardiogram to see the heart with our own eyes.

But besides using our eyes and ears to monitor heart health, we can conduct blood tests that help us do the same, and I think you'll readily agree with me that that's pretty darn important.

Creatine Kinase

One of the things we measure when looking after our heart health is creatine kinase, CK for short, or sometimes called creatine phosphokinase (aka CPK). Creatine kinase is an enzyme found in skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle and the brain that is involved in energetic reactions.

An enzyme is a specialized protein capable of speeding up biochemical reactions in your body. This particular enzyme, CK, is found in skeletal muscle. This muscle type is the one that is under voluntary control. So things like your biceps, quads and so forth are skeletal muscles. It's also found in cardiac, or heart, muscle. Unlike skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle isn't under true voluntary control. Just go ahead and try to immediately put a stop your heart just by thinking about it. It thankfully won't work.

Before moving on here, I want to make a very important point. Please do not get creatine confused with creatinine. They sound very similar but are used for different purposes. While we use creatine kinase, CK, to monitor heart and skeletal muscle health, we use creatinine to monitor kidney health. In order to help you remember which goes with which, think about the fact that the letters CK stand for both the proper spelling, 'Cardiac', and phonetic spelling, 'Kahr-dee-ak', for our heart.

Keeping that in mind, if elevations of creatine kinase are found on blood work, then we know that the heart may not be healthy. Things that can lead to elevations in creatine kinase include myocardial infarction, the technical name for a heart attack, or myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle.

Of course, as I just mentioned not too long ago, CK also helps to monitor skeletal muscle disease. This enzyme is released when skeletal muscle injuries occur in conditions such as myositis (the inflammation of skeletal muscle) or rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of skeletal muscle) as a result of things like a crush injury, toxins, overexertion, infection or autoimmune disease.

What Is Troponin?

Other than creatinine kinase... did you catch my mistake? What I meant to say was that other than creatine kinase, another molecule we can monitor for heart health is known as troponin. Troponin is a protein found in heart and skeletal muscle that is involved in muscle contraction. If it wasn't clear by that definition, then bear in mind that troponin is not found in smooth muscle such as that of your digestive system.

In healthy patients, troponin shouldn't be detected on blood tests, or only minutely so. Regardless of the cause of injury to the heart muscle, technically called the myocardium, where 'myo' refers to muscle and 'cardium' the heart, troponin levels will increase.

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