Heart Disease Risk and C-reactive Protein (CRP)

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is elevated in the blood when there is widespread inflammation somewhere in the body. The evidence now available indicates that inflammation and molecules such as C-reactive protein associated with inflammation may be as important as cholesterol in determining the development of atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") and heart disease.

Although C-reactive protein is clearly an important marker of inflammation, it is not at all clear why inflammation should elevate C-reactive protein levels. Some researchers have suggested that a chronic infection with certain bacteria or viruses may raise the C-reactive protein.