C-Reactive Protein (CRP)

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Is elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) a risk factor for cardiovascular disease?

Because of the inflammatory component of atherosclerosis, elevated CRP level has been linked with cardiovascular disease. However, based on the current available data it cannot be considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes mellitus, elevated blood cholesterol, age, cigarette smoking, obesity, and family history of heart disease may correlate with an elevated CRP level. According to recent studies, after adjusting for these traditional risk factors, elevated CRP level alone is unlikely to be a cause of cardiovascular disease.

Nevertheless, CRP may be used as a predictor of cardiovascular disease based on its correlation with the other known cardiac risk factors and their role in the formation of atherosclerosis. In individuals with some or all of these traditional risk factors, the elevated CRP levels have been detected. Some data even suggest a trend of higher CRP elevation in the presence of higher number of risk factors.

How is C-reactive protein (CRP) measured?

CRP measurement is made using a blood sample from a vein. The sample is then taken to a laboratory and analyzed.

The traditional CRP measurement is often used to detect inflammation in the body. Currently, a more highly sensitive measurement to detect CRP is used for cardiovascular risk assessment. This high sensitive C-reactive protein is termed hsCRP.

Because measuring CRP levels at any point in time may be influenced by any infection or inflammation in the body, one time measurement is generally not regarded as an adequate predictor of cardiovascular risk. Therefore, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends checking two separate CRP levels approximately two weeks apart and using the average number of the two readings for cardiovascular risk assessment and screening purposes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/5/2015

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