BNP stands for Brain natiruretic peptide
BNP is produced by the walls of the heart when the pressure in the heart goes up excessively. The most common cause for this is to happen is when the heart is damaged or weak. In this setting the heart struggles to push blood out with as much vigour and therefore the pressure within the heart increases, the walls stretch and BNP is produced
BNP is the heart’s way of trying to reduce the pressure it is under. BNP opens up the blood vessels thereby making it easier for the heart to pump blood out. Additionally BNP causes the kidneys to produce more urine and therefore reduce the overall volume in the blood vessels again reducing the work the heart has to do
BNP levels can easily be measured by a simple blood test. Very high values are suggestive of a problem with the heart and should prompt a request for an echocardiogram to visualise the heart. Normal BNP levels on the other hand make it very unlikely that the heart is weak
We are increasingly realising that BNP is the body’s natural way of counteracting against effects of a weak heart and therefore researchers have been working on medications which can stop BNP from being broken down thereby allowing it to stay in the body longer. One particular medication which has been developed in this manner is known as Entresto and this has been shown to offer a significantly improved prognosis in patients with heart failure.