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What is CRP?

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a measurable substance in the blood. Increased levels of this protein indicate acute inflammation. Research studies have shown that high levels of CRP indicate an increased risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. This is now believed to be an even stronger risk factor than having elevated cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately, the CRP test is not as specific as the cholesterol test, nor is it as reproducible. CRP levels fluctuate daily and throughout the day. Levels may also increase as a result of numerous factors including aging, high blood pressure, alcohol use, smoking, low levels of physical activity, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, chronic fatigue, coffee consumption, having elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance and diabetes, eating a high protein diet, cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, lupus, sleep disturbances, and depression. Medicines containing estrogen (oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy) may also elevate CRP levels. CRP levels are also significantly elevated during and following a heart attack.

CRP levels are considered a modifiable risk factor, which means that -as with cholesterol-blood levels can be lowered. This can be done with exercise and a diet containing sufficient levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins appear to protect against inflammation as well as cholesterol, and aspirin use is known to have this effect as well.

Created: 3/19/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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