How a CRP Test Can Help You Avoid Heart Disease
Posted 7/10/2018 by UHBlog
A CRP test for inflammation can indicate if you or your employees are at risk for coronary artery disease and other devastating health problems. Talk to us about lifestyle changes at home and in the workplace that can improve overall health.
Your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels may not be all you need to know about your heart disease risk. Depending on your individual risk factors, many physicians also may test your level of C-reactive protein (CRP).
CRP is a type of protein the liver produces when there is infection or inflammation in the body, says internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD.
“Since inflammation may indicate the buildup of fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in the inner walls of the arteries, a high-sensitivity CRP test, which is called an hs-CRP, is a good predictor of heart disease,” he says.
Blocked or extremely narrowed arteries leading to the heart can cause serious cardiovascular problems, he says.
“Identifying at-risk patients as early as possible is important for effective treatment of any disease,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “In many cases, the CRP test allows us to do that.
Normal LDL and Heart Disease
Many people have normal LDL levels, yet still develop coronary heart disease, Dr. Buchinsky says.
LDL cholesterol contributes to fatty buildups in arteries, called atherosclerosis, and raises the risk for heart attack, stroke and narrowed arteries in the legs, a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD).
“Even if LDL levels are within the normal range, if I see a patient with other risk factors – like a family history of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of activity or smoking – I will dig deeper and order an hs-CRP blood test,” he says. “We need to know if there is an excessive amount of chronic inflammation in the body and how to reduce inflammation levels quickly.”
When to Get a CRP Test
Based on their risk factors for coronary artery disease, Dr. Buchinsky recommends men get the hs-CRP test at age 45 and women by age 55.This test is part of a routine blood analysis.
Since early diagnosis of health issues helps to ensure the health and well-being of a company's valuable employees, most employer insurance plans will pay for this test.
High CRP levels also can indicate rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, urinary tract infections, fever, cancer, diabetes and periodontal disease.
“Any time a CRP test shows elevated inflammation in the body, we run the test twice to rule out other heath issues,” Dr. Buchinsky says.
How to Lower CRP Levels
The good news is that statin drugs, baby aspirin and lifestyle changes can lower CRP levels and reduce a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease and other medical problems.
“Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes like proper diet, exercise and smoking cessation can help prevent life-endangering degenerative diseases down the road,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “Proactive prevention is the best intervention.”
The lifestyle changes Dr. Buchinsky recommends to naturally lower excess CRP levels and heart disease risk include:
- Stop smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important step to improve the length and quality of your life.
- Eat a healthy diet. A Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and olive oil can lower inflammation. Also, avoid eating calorie rich and processed foods.
- Exercise. Maintain a 30- to 45-minute routine of steady exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming or biking. Research indicates that as fitness levels decline, CRP levels rise.
- Whittle your waist. Carrying excess fat around your middle can cause inflammation. The ideal waist measurement is less than half a person’s height. A man 72 inches tall should have a waist less than 36 inches.
- Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night is best.
- Reduce stress. High levels of stress hormones lead to release of excessive inflammatory chemicals. Try deep breathing, meditation or long walks.
Roy Buchinsky, MD is an internal medicine specialist and the director of wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other doctor online.