The Significance of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) to Heart Health
Two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine
shown that there may be an additional substance as important as cholesterol in
the treatment and diagnosis of heart disease. The substance is called C-reactive
protein (CRP). Researchers have known for years that many people with heart
disease have elevated levels of CRP. The recent January studies showed that
people who already had heart disease and who took high doses of statins (drugs
that lower cholesterol) had reduced levels of CRP and fewer heart attacks.
One reason that the CRP findings are so important is that about half of all
people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. So a possible
theory is that people who have normal cholesterol levels who may also be at risk
for heart disease may have high levels of CRP. If that’s the case, it could
become common practice to test for CRP along with cholesterol.
Researchers don’t yet understand exactly how CRP is related to increased risk of
heart attack. But they do know that CRP is a measure of inflammation in the
walls of the arteries. They also know that one way to lower CRP levels is to
lose weight, get regular exercise and stop smoking.
New England Journal of Medicine, January 2005.