C-Reactive Protein Test
Blood Test To Screen For Signs Of Inflammation

Heart Health

blood test

C-Reactive Protein Test


What Is A C-Reactive Protein Test?
Who Needs It?
Screening For Heart Disease
Should Everyone Have A CRP Test For Heart Disease?
How Is The Test Done?
Understanding Your Test Results
Testing For Other Diseases And Conditions
How Much Does It Cost?

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Heart Disease Tests
Circulation System
Chest Conditions
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.

Who Needs It?

Your doctor may recommend the blood test (in combination with other examinations) to check for signs of:

Heart disease (CHD)
• Damage to the heart after a heart attack (inflammation of heart tissue)
• Infection after surgery
Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus (types of arthritis characterized by inflammation)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
• Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Screening For Heart Disease

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.

*JUPITER: (Justification for the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention: An Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin)

Should Everyone Have A CRP Test For Heart Disease?

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).
Finally, those with a high risk of a heart attack should be seeking treatment regardless of their CRP level.

How Is The Test Done?

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.

Understanding Your Test Results

Heart Disease

If you are using the CRP test to assess your risk of heart disease, the following categories are used to classify your risk:

CRP Level Risk Of Heart Disease
Less than 1.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
Between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/dL
Greater than 3.0 mg/dL
Low Risk
Average risk
High risk*

*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.

Do keep in mind that high levels of CRP are not always an indicator of heart disease, there is still some disagreement among researchers about this.

Testing For Other Diseases And Conditions

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:

• Rheumatoid arthritis, see symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
• Rheumatic fever
• Lupus
• Cancer, see symptoms of cancer.
• Connective tissue disease
• Infection
• Pneumococcal pneumonia
• Tuberculosis
• Previous heart attack

How Much Does The Test Cost?

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.

  Related Articles on CRP Test

For more tests, see the following:

Vascular screening: For stroke.
Recommended health screenings for women.

Back to Homepage: Womens Health Advice

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