C-reactive protein (CRP) is a commonly used marker of inflammation.
The liver raises CRP levels in response to inflammation in the body. High levels of inflammation can be caused by injuries, bacterial or viral infections. Chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or lupus also increase C-reactive protein levels.
Low levels are generally associated with heart disease, diabetes, or stress.
A high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test can help assess low level of inflammation. That’s something you may not be able to observe visually or by other methods.
As an inflammation marker, hs-CRP is also an indicator of risks of coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The American Heart Association (AHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the test is useful for anyone with a 10-20% risk of heart attack in next ten years (Pearson 2003).
The American Heart Association (AHA) has given CRP test a rating of Class IIA (with level of evidence B). That means they believe enough evidence exists to confirm the usefulness of such a test for monitoring heart health.
For someone with a previous heart attack the test can be specifically useful. The risk of future attack in this group is relatively high.
There are seven main modulators of cardiovascular diseases, called Framingham Risk Factors: age, gender, blood pressure, HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), total cholesterol or LDL, smoking, diabetes, and body mass index (BMI). These account for most of the excess risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).
These factors cause damage to the arteries resulting in inflammation in the body. High CRP levels are indication of this inflammation and act as an independent marker of heart disease (Buckley 2009).
Why test for hs-CRP or inflammation? The test might be useful in motivating people to make better lifestyle decisions. It may also improve their compliance with medication to improve overall health. Those with known heart disease might benefit as well. Regularly testing the levels will allow measuring their efforts at controlling the disease activity or monitoring the therapy.
If levels are consistently high, experts recommend talking to your doctor to assess the risk of coronary heart diseases or stroke. Minimum of two tests, ideally separated by at least two weeks, should be used to determine consistently high levels.
Based on the summary of 23 studies and over sixty-one thousand participants, hs-CRP levels show low, moderate, or high risk of cardiovascular disease as following:
The standard hs-CRP test is basically a simple blood test that uses a sample collected in the lab.
But there is a new and easier way to test your levels. An at-home inflammation test uses a small sample that can be collected at home and doesn’t require you to visit a doctor or lab. You can order the test online and receive the At-Home Inflammation and Vitamin D test kit by mail. A CLIA-certified lab will test the sample and send you a physician reviewed report in few days.
Recent studies suggest Vitamin D also plays a role in inflammation and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, the test also checks for Vitamin D levels to ensure your levels are not affected by low Vitamin D levels.
The American Heart Association recommends checking your cholesterol levels (HDL, LDL, and total values) regularly. High cholesterol levels are well known predictor of poor heart health.
Fasting is not necessary before collecting a sample. However, medication should be reviewed during the test as certain drugs are known to artificially affect the levels.
Because short term health conditions such as illness or injury can raise CRP levels, experts recommend testing two samples about two weeks apart (Pearson 2003).
C-reactive protein levels show strong correlation to most risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, any life style changes that reduce the risk of heart disease may lower CRP levels. There are other modulators of CRP levels:
As an indicator of inflammation, C-reactive protein is an independent marker of heart disease. Most of the recommendations for improving heart health therefore will also lower CRP levels. Some of these recommendations include: