Blood Test for C-Reactive Protein

C-Reactive protein (CRP) is a marker of inflammation, meaning that it indicates the presence of inflammation somewhere in the body. Inflammation is associated with the development of artherosclerotic plaque and also the rupture of vulnerable plaques-an occurrence that precipitates a heart attack. An inexpensive test to measure CRP levels in the blood known as high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP) or ultra-sensitive CRP (usCRP), can be helpful in refining individual estimates of the risk of developing CAD and the risk of having a subsequent cardiac event in patients who have already had a heart attack. The higher the CRP level the higher the risk. CRP levels can be decreased by weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, and dietary modification, as well as by treatment with aspirin and statins.

Fortunately, studies have shown that patients with elevated CRP levels can have their cardiovascular risk lowered by statin therapy. Notably, a landmark clinical trial called JUPITER (Justification of the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention: An Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin) studied apparently healthy people with average LDL levels, but elevated hsCRP. When their LDL cholesterol and hsCRP levels were treated to extremely low levels with aggressive statin therapy, their risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiac death was decreased by almost 80 percent. Achieving very low LDL levels proved to be more important than achieving very low LDL levels. This implies that inflammation, as indicated by hsCRP, is a risk factor for the development of artherosclerosis even when cholesterol levels are low.

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