C-Reactive Protein Test
• What Is A C-Reactive Protein Test?
Heart Disease Tests
|What Is A C-Reactive Protein Test?
It a blood test that measures the amount of C-reactive protein (CRP) in your blood. CRP is a protein that is found to some degree in everyone's blood. High levels can indicate inflammation somewhere in your body. Inflammation is a normal response to many conditions, including infection, injury and fever; but it also plays a role in the progression of coronary heart disease (CHD). Whether raised CRP levels is an indicator of CHD (marks its presence), or whether it causes it is not yet clear.
Your doctor may recommend the blood test (in combination with other examinations) to check for signs of:
Note: The ultra sensitive C-reactive protein blood (HS-CRP) test (which is particularly sensitive) is best for screening for heart disease.
In large scale studies, high levels of CRP seem to correlate with high risks of heart problems. In fact, it is as least as predictive of a heart attack as high cholesterol levels or calcium levels (see calcium score test). One clinical trial, called the Physicians Health Study, involving 18,000 apparently healthy doctors found that raised CRP levels were associated with a 3-fold increase in the risk of a heart attack. In the Harvard Women's Health Study, 12 different markers were studied in healthy postmenopausal (past menopause) women. After 3 years researchers concluded that CRP was the most reliable predicator of cardiovascular risk. Women with the highest levels of CRP were 4 times more likely to have died from CHD or to have suffered from a non-fatal stroke or heart attack. This group was also more likely to have undergone heart bypass surgery or coronary angiography. More recently a study called JUPITER* showed that taking statins medications (typically taken to lower bad cholesterol levels) can prevent heart attacks and stroke in people with normal cholesterol levels but high levels of CRP.
No, those with a low risk for a heart attack are unlikely to gain much benefit from this test. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it is only really beneficial to those with a moderate risk of having a heart attack (10 to 20 percent chance) within the next 10 years. You can discover your risk of having a heart attack by using the online calculator on the AHA website (www.heart.org). This risk assessment tool assesses risk based on family history, lifestyle choices and current health (read more about these factors in our article, heart disease risk factors).
It is a standard blood test. A needle is inserted to a vein in the arm and a small amount of blood is withdrawn. If you are also having a blood cholesterol test at the same time (lipid panel or profile test), you will need to have your test first thing in the morning because you have to fast for a lipid panel test. The test results usually take a few days.
*You may be recommended further heart tests such as a stress test or coronary angiogram. You may also be recommended medications (such as aspirin therapy or statins) and lifestyle changes (losing weight and a better diet) to reduce your risk of a heart attack.
If your levels are 8 mg/dL or higher, this indicates serious inflammation somewhere in the body. Generally levels higher than 10 mg/dL will indicate the presence of another condition. These conditions include:
The test on its own is usually about $80 which includes lab testing. Some chest pain clinics offer a combined heart screening (CRP test with cholesterol blood test) for about $150.
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