When the heart muscle is under significant stress it releases compounds that are designed to help it compensate. One class of these compounds is the natriuretic peptides. These work to help the kidney get rid of excess fluid. The best known of these are BNP (brain natriuretic peptide) and NT pro-BNP. Levels of these “peptides” can be measured in the blood. In the presence of significant breathing problems, low levels of these peptides make heart failure unlikely to be the cause. As symptoms worsen in heart failure, levels of these compounds increase. As a result, an elevated BNP level suggests that heart failure is present. A higher level of BNP indicates that a worse degree of heart failure is likely. This indicates a more serious prognosis.
Routine monitoring of BNP levels may be helpful in determining how patients are responding to their medications.
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