“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.