B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) belongs to a family of protein hormones called natriuretic peptides.
These natriuretic peptides have an important role in regulating the circulation. They act on blood vessels, causing them to dilate, or widen. They also work on the kidneys, causing them to excrete more salt and water. In addition, the natriuretic peptides reduce the production of various hormones that narrow blood vessels, boost the heart rate, or affect fluid retention; examples include adrenaline, angiotensin, and aldosterone.
The net effect of natriuretic peptides is to promote urine excretion, relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and reduce the heart's workload. They are part of the body's natural defense mechanisms designed to protect the heart from stress. And they surge into action when they are needed most, when the heart itself is under siege.
In general, results of less than 100 picograms/milliliter (pg/mL) are a sign a person does not have heart failure.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
A B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) test or aminoterminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) test gives your provider essential information about your heart health. It helps them diagnose heart failure, so they can develop a treatment plan. It also helps them monitor how well treatments are working. Talk to your provider if you have any questions about the test results.
Higher-than-normal levels of BNP in your blood can be a sign that your heart isn’t working as it should. It can mean that your heart isn’t pumping enough blood through your body. Since BNP is cleared by your kidneys, it may also mean that your kidneys are not functioning properly.
Symptoms of heart failure include:
- Cough that seems dry or “hacking” and gets worse when laying down.
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath (dyspnea) or wheezing.
- Delirium (confusion).
- Dizziness or fainting (syncope).
- Fatigue or feeling sluggish.
- Heart palpitations.
- Nausea and vomiting or loss of appetite.
- Swelling (edema) in your abdomen, legs, ankles and feet.
- Urinating (peeing) more than usual at night (nocturia).
Heart failure means your heart isn’t pumping blood as it should. It doesn’t mean that your heart has failed or stopped working entirely. If your provider has already diagnosed you with heart failure, they may order a BNP or NT-proBNP test to monitor how treatments are working.
Get emergency medical help if you have these symptoms. Heart failure is life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.
BNP levels go up when the heart cannot pump the way it should.
A result greater than 100 pg/mL is abnormal. The higher the number, the more likely heart failure is present and the more severe it is.
Sometimes other conditions can cause high BNP levels. These include:
- Kidney failure
- Pulmonary embolism
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Severe infection (sepsis)
- Lung problems
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