In 2004 it was 6.7, in 2005 it was 6.8, now it is 16.5. What does this really mean to me? What should I do?
Thanks for your question.
C-reactive protein (or CRP) is a blood test that is done as a screen for a variety of disorders, including heart disease. CRP is produced by the body during the general process of inflammation, which makes CRP a "marker" for the presence of inflammation. Arterial disease (in the heart as well as elsewhere), arthritis, infection, and certain disease such as Lupus and Crohn's Disease, can cause elevated levels of CRP.
Inflammation of the arteries is a risk factor for the development of heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. An elevated CRP level may be an indication that a patient is at risk for the development of these problems. However, you must tell your doctor if you have any history of arthritis, infection or underlying diseases. This information, plus other questions he will ask, and your physical examination will give him a more accurate assessment of your overall risk for heart disease.
CRP levels are often done in patients with one or more risk factors for heart disease. These include: prior heart disease; family history of heart disease; elevated cholesterol levels; cigarette smoking; diabetes; hypertension; excessive weight; and, inactivity.
CRP levels less than 1.0 mg/L indicates a low risk for cardiovascular disease. Levels of 1.0 - 2.9 mg/L are intermediate. Levels greater than 2.0 mg/L represent a high risk.
Your level is very high, and might indicate there is another source for the inflammation. Your doctor will help sort this out with you. Treatment is aimed at lowering risk for cardiovascular disease, and includes: smoking cessation; controlling high blood pressure and diabetes; weight loss; exercise; following a heart-healthy diet; and restricting alcohol intake. Many doctors also prescribe low dose aspirin for patients with elevated CRP levels, as well as cholesterol-lowering drugs. These should all be discussed with your doctor.
Please review our website for more information about lifestyle changes, heart-healthy diets, exercise, and more.
I hope this has been helpful.
Martin Cane, M.D.