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What Is CRP and Why Is It a Risk Factor?
- CRP stands for C-Reactive Protein. It’s a protein produced by our immune system in response to supposed antigens or invaders in our body
- CRP shows inflammation occurring in our arteries. Hardening arteries are associated with atherosclerosis which is a major risk factors for coronary heart disease
- CRP test shouldn’t be routine but if you’re already at risk for heart disease, you may want to discuss the option with your physician
In the near future, you may be getting one more lab result with your annual health screening. That extra result may tell you if you stand a good chance for developing heart disease or even of dying suddenly from a massive heart attack or stroke. Although none of us want to hear that news, it could mean the difference between life and death. If you’re wondering what this new lab test would measure to provide this information, the answer is CRP. If you’re now wondering, “What is CRP?” keep reading for the answer.
Understanding What Is CRP
CRP stands for C-Reactive Protein. This is a protein produced by our immune systems in response to supposed antigens or invaders in our body. The proteins attack the invader. Unfortunately, the chemicals and methods used during the attack often lead to inflammation. In this case, CRP shows inflammation occurring in our arteries.
The reason this is important is that medical research has known that inflammation and related swelling in the arteries is associated with atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease.
Long before the average person was wondering what is CRP, researchers were already conducting studies to determine if a connection existed between the presence of the protein and the risk of heart disease or death. Today, the results seem conclusive: CRP results are at least as good as cholesterol levels in determining a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
One study involving more than 18,000 patients (all of whom were physicians who seemed healthy) found high CRP levels were correlated with a three time greater risk of heart attack. Another study done by Harvard researchers focused on post-menopausal women. After three years, the study found the best predictor of heart disease among twelve different markers tested was CRP levels. Women with high CRP levels in the study were four times more likely than their counterparts to have had a fatal or non-fatal heart attack, stroke, or cardiac procedure.
Not only has a correlation between CRP and heart disease been established but those levels also predict more dire outcomes for patients. According to the American Heart Association, people with higher levels of CRP were less likely to survive a heart attack than those with lower levels. Plus, they were more likely to have their arteries re-close after angioplasty.
Who Should be Tested
Now that you understand what is CRP, you may be wondering if and when you should be tested. Right now, the American Heart Association isn’t recommending that everyone be routinely screened for their C-reaction protein levels. However, if you are already at significant risk of developing heart disease, you may want to discuss the option with your physician.
The test is just a routine blood work. However, you may not want to rely on a single reading. CRP levels can also show inflammation in other parts of your body so high levels may not necessarily indicate a risk of heart disease. Your physician may be able to determine the accuracy of your lab results after completing your physical examination.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.