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The Significance of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) to Heart Health

separator Two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine have 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.
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