How is C-reactive Protein Connected to Heart Disease?

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C-reactive protein (CRP) is a blood test marker to measure inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s immune response, but inflammation can be excessive and lead to a wide range of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.

How is C-reactive protein measured?

CRP is produced by the liver in response to inflammation. As inflammation in the body rises, CRP rises. As inflammation decreases, CRP decreases.

CRP levels can be elevated by a variety of factors, from infection to cancer.

A blood test is used to measure CRP levels.

Normal values vary depending on your lab, so check your lab report range to know if your levels are outside normal.

In general, normal CRP levels are less than 1.0 mg/L.

What does a high-sensitivity c-reactive protein test mean?

There is a more sensitive CRP test called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). Doctors may utilize this test to evaluate heart disease risk. As a general rule, the higher your hs-CRP, the greater risk for stroke or heart attack. A high hs-CRP may result in your doctor pursuing more aggressive treatment to manage risk factors.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a CRP less than 1.0 mg/L equals low risk, 1.0 – 2.9 mg/L intermediate risk, and >3.0 mg/L equals high risk for cardiovascular disease.

How is C-reactive protein connected to heart disease?

Chronic inflammation plays a key role in heart disease with CRP being a marker of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the hardening or narrowing of arteries which leads to heart disease.

CRP may be used to predict cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and peripheral vascular disease, in conjunction with cholesterol levels and other risk factors.

How can you lower C-reactive protein levels?

If you have elevated CRP levels, treatment will not focus on the CRP itself but on conditions related to inflammation, such as atherosclerosis.

Actions you can take to promote normal CRP levels include regular physical activity, weight loss (if overweight or obese), limit alcohol consumption, don’t smoke, and consume a fruit and vegetable rich diet. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower CRP levels.

There are medications that reduce CRP levels, such as aspirin, statins, niacin, and ACE inhibitors. If you take medication, discuss with your doctor to know the impact on CRP levels.

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