Similar to ALT (alanine-aminotransferase), aspartate-aminotransferase (AST) is an enzyme found in the liver, heart, kidneys, brain, and skeletal muscles. It functions as a critical component of amino acid metabolism in our bodies. Low levels of AST are typically found in the human blood stream; however, when tissue in organs (such as, the heart or liver) has been damaged they release an excess of AST into the blood. This spike in AST level peaks in 6-10 hours after the injury and persists for up to four days. AST and ALT serve similar functions in our bodies, and as such the tests for both are often ordered together to make a more concise diagnosis about the cause of liver, heart, or kidney damage.
Normal Ranges in U/L:
Low levels of AST are common and in normal in the human body. An AST score that is two to three times higher than normal is considered mildly elevated.
Most commonly, an elevated AST level is a sign of liver disease. Symptoms of liver disease include:
- Jaundice (yellow skin / eyes)
- Unexpected weight loss
- Swelling around the eyes, stomach, or legs
High levels of AST in the blood may also indicate cirrhosis, hepatitis, pancreatitis, some types of cancer, use of drugs that are toxic to the liver (including: antibiotics, chemotherapy, aspirin, narcotics, and barbiturates), or heart attack / heart failure.
It is worth noting that pregnancy and vigorous exercise are known to cause an increase in AST levels.
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