By: Robert Tanenberg
What Is C-reactive protein?
It is becoming more apparent that inflammation plays an important role in many disease processes. Measurement of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), which is elevated when inflammation is present, has become a hot topic in medicine.
Although first described in terms of pneumonia, CRP elevations are now considered important predictors of cardiovascular heart disease (CHD). Healthy-appearing adults with elevated baseline levels of CRP may be more likely to have an initial heart attack or stroke than those with a normal CRP level.
CRP levels are often higher in patients with type 2 diabetes. They may also be higher in obese and sedentary persons, smokers and people with hypertension.
The more risk factors for CHD one has, the higher the CRP level.
In one recent study, CRP appeared to be a better predictor of dangerous CHD than LDL cholesterol. Another recent study published in the journal Diabetes notes that elevated CRP levels helped to identify persons at high risk to develop type 2. The authors raised the possibility that low-grade systemic inflammation may be an important factor causing type 2 diabetes.
The American Heart Association notes that the CRP test is most helpful for primary prevention of CHD for patients who are at intermediate risk based on their other risk factors (that is, those patients who have a 10 to 20 percent risk for CHD). The test may not be as helpful for people who already have CHD or diabetes or who are at low risk for CHD.
Already having type 2 diabetes is considered a CHD risk-equivalent. Research has shown that people with diabetes are as likely to have a heart attack as those without diabetes who have a history of a heart attack.