Tuesday, February 22, 2011

C-reactive protein

Inflammation is a process our body uses to fight off an assault, like a cold or injury, in order to heal. But over the long term, chronic inflammation plays a detrimental role to health because the nasty byproducts—inflammatory molecules like cytokines—are believed to be part of several disease processes, including atherosclerosis, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease. In the realm of heart disease, much ado has been made of c-reactive protein, a marker for one's level of inflammation that can be picked up through a blood test called hs-CRP, for high-sensitivity c-reactive protein.
Who should get the test, and what are doctors to do with the results? Those are matters of considerable debate. "We can't treat high [c-reactive protein]," says Whiteson. It's an indicator of potential heart trouble, but medicine doesn't have the tools, via medications or procedures, to bring an elevated c-reactive protein down to normal. It is possible, however, to directly treat other critical risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Doing so can bring down the risk of future cardiac events and death. A landmark study from late 2008 found that subjects who did not have heart disease and had normal cholesterol and who took statins had a lower risk of heart attack and stroke and also had fewer angioplasties and bypass surgeries over the course of the study, compared with the group who took a placebo. But too many questions remain about the study to make a blanket statement that folks should be taking statins more liberally.
Bottom line: According to the American Heart Association, a hs-CRP measure of 1 mg/L means you are at low risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a measure between 1 and 3 mg/L means you are at average risk, and levels above 3 mg/L means your risk is high. Getting the test may be helpful, says Yancy, if you are at intermediate risk for heart disease based on other risk factors and your doctors would like another data point to determine treatment. But "there is no need to check CRP if a person already has high risk or truly is in the healthy bracket," he says.

(credits to YahooNews)

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