What Does It Mean When You Have Elevated Heart Enzymes?

elevated heart enzymesWhat Are Elevated Heart Enzymes?

If your doctor told you that you have elevated heart enzymes, you might be wondering what that means. Heart enzymes are often measured if your doctor suspects heart damage, such as the kind that occurs after a heart attack.

When the heart becomes damaged, proteins become released in the blood known as cardiac enzymes. Measurable heart enzymes include kinase (CK) and a subtype of this enzyme called CK-MB.


CK is found in the heart, skeletal muscles, and brain. CK-MB is only found in the heart.

Measuring CK and CK-MB was the only way to measure a heart attack, but now doctors measure troponin as it reveals more about overall heart damage.

What Are the Causes Elevated Heart Enzymes?

There are several different causes for elevated heart enzymes, they include:

Heart diseases: Measuring heart enzymes is often done when a person complains of heart-related symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pains. When the heart becomes damaged, enzymes from dying cells are leaked into the blood stream, which makes them measurable. Other heart diseases which can trigger elevated heart enzymes include heart failure, inflammation of the heart’s surrounding sac, inflammation of the heart muscle, and heart surgery.

Brain disorders: Lack of blood to the brain can trigger a stroke, which contributes to elevated heart enzymes. People who experience a stroke often may have an underlying heart condition which contributes to the stroke, causing the elevated enzymes.

Respiratory conditions: Certain lung disorders have been associated with elevated heart enzymes. The most common being pulmonary embolism – blood clot in the lung. When a blood clot travels to the lungs, the heart must overwork itself, which causes added stress and damage. This then results in the release of enzymes.

Kidney disease: High blood pressure and diabetes are contributing factors for kidney disease and having kidney disease increases the risk of heart disease. CK and CK-MB can be elevated in kidney disease patients even if they aren’t at risk for a heart attack. The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and removing excess enzymes, so if the kidneys are not working well, then there can be elevated enzymes in the body.


Severe infection: Sepsis – a severe blood infection – can trigger elevated heart enzymes because it affects all major organs including the heart and kidneys.

Muscle disorders: CK is present in skeletal muscle, so muscle disorders are associated with higher CK levels. Inflammatory muscle conditions can also trigger higher CK levels along with muscle injury, muscular dystrophy, and connective tissue disorders. Taking certain antidepressants and anti-fungal medications can also result in higher CK levels.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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