Information Screening Elevated C Reactive Protein

C-reactive protein (CRP) is an enzyme produced by the liver. At low levels, it’s harmless, but elevated C-reactive protein is associated with a high risk for heart disease, heart attacks, Type 2 diabetes and strokes. Elevated C-reactive protein occurs in response to inflammation in the body, which can be caused by burns, infections, arthritis, cancer or other traumas.

Elevated C-reactive protein causes no symptoms, but it’s been identified as a major warning sign for the development of heart disease, the number one killer of men and women. Medical screening for elevated C-reactive protein is important, as early intervention can be lifesaving.

What is Elevated C-Reactive Protein?

C-reactive protein is released into the blood as part of the body’s response to an infection or injury. C-reactive protein levels can skyrocket within 24 to 48 hours of a trauma. Elevated CRP is considered a risk factor for heart disease because atherosclerosis, a disease marked by the hardening of the arteries, has an inflammatory component that can lead to chronically elevated CRP.

Who is at Risk for Elevated C-Reactive Protein?

Although anyone is at risk for elevated C-reactive protein, the chances of it leading to heart disease are much higher for people already at risk for cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include:

  • Being a male over 45 or a woman over Diabetes or taking medication to control blood sugar
  • Doing less than 30 total minutes of physical activity on most days
  • Having a body mass index of 25 or higher
  • Having a family history of heart attack or stroke
  • Having a history of heart attack, stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Having a total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher
  • Having an HDL or “good” cholesterol level of less than 40 mg/dL
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Receiving a diagnosis of carotid artery disease or peripheral arterial disease
  • Smoking, or living or working with people who smoke every day.

How Does Elevated C-Reactive Protein Screening Work?

Medical screening for elevated C-reactive protein requires a simple finger-stick blood test, after which a technician evaluates the levels of CRP in your blood. Unlike many blood tests, you don’t have to fast or otherwise prepare before medical screening for elevated CRP. Anyone in a high-risk category for heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, diabetes or stroke should have this medical screening test done.

After you have your results, talk to your doctor about the assessment and make treatment plans, if necessary. A reading of less than 1 mg/L typically means your risk for heart disease is low, while a reading of more than 3 mg/L puts you at high risk.

Preventing Elevated C-Reactive Protein

Because C-reactive protein is a natural part of the body’s immune system response, you can’t prevent the elevation of CRP levels. However, you can take steps to lower your risk of heart disease. If you’re a smoker, quit. Follow a balanced diet and a regular exercise program. If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, talk to your doctor about aspirin therapy as a method of reducing inflammation.

Resources

American Heart Association (2010). Inflammation, heart disease and stroke: The role of C-reactive protein. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4648.

LifeLine Screening. (n.d.). Screening for C-reactive protein. Retrieved August 29, 2010, from http://www.lifelinescreening.com/health-screening-services/heart-disease/elevated-c-reactive-protein.aspx.

Nabili, S. (2010). C-reactive protein (CRP). Retrieved August 29, 2010, from http://www.medicinenet.com/c-reactive_protein_test_crp/article.htm.