Check Your CRP

“Half the people who have heart disease find out they have a heart problem by dropping dead. That’s the first symptom they have.”
-Dr. Richard Fleming, nuclear cardiologist

Heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer. 1.2 million people will have heart attacks in 2012 and about 500,000 of them will die. Now there’s a simple blood test that checks the coronary arteries by measuring C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein made by the liver to deal with inflammation.

A CRP level above 3 mg. signifies higher risk for heart disease. A level of 1 to 3 means moderate risk, and a reading under 1 means low risk. And people with a CRP less than 0.5 mg. almost never have heart attacks. (I’m in this group, having chosen to specialize in other potentially terminal diseases.)

In his bestselling book, The End of Illness, Dr. David Agus says,

Inflammation is a telltale sign that something isn’t right in the body, that the body is encountering harmful stress … Virtually all chronic conditions have been linked to chronic inflammation, which, put simply, creates an imbalance in your system that stimulates negative effects on your health.

He also cites The Jupiter Study, which showed that “elevated CRP levels may indicate a risk of future heart attack up to eight years in advance, even if cholesterol levels are low.”

I first heard about the CRP test at Susan’s memorial service. Her doctor, a family friend, said he would start using it with patients like Susan who don’t have high cholesterol but who have other stressors.

Physicians are divided about who should have a CRP test, so you may have to ask for it. ASK!

Detecting heart trouble is now easier. Doing something about it is still hard—i.e. changing our lifestyle. In the long run it’s worth the effort.

4 thoughts on “Check Your CRP

  1. Also note that Adventist Hospital Wellness dept has a $50 CRP blood test with the lipids evaluations; so we go for it BEFORE annual physical with our MDs. NO prescription required and it gives our doc a plan to advise on.

  2. Great advice Mike…another test, although more expensive, but still non-invasive, that can be done is the Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring. Insurance usually doesn’t pay for it, and it cost about $200 at an imaging center, but it gives some very specific results about the presence or absence of coronary artery calcium (which is a correlate of atherosclerosis). It is especially a good test for those who are at high risk for CAD due to family history etc. Scoring is based on a 0-400 scale with a score of zero being the best and most desirable. Here is a link for anyone interested in learning more about it.

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