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(Click here to read Part 1 of this article)

So, what’s CRP? I thought you said the killer’s name was Inflammation.

Ok, good. you’re tracking well. CRP stands for Creactive protein, which is a molecule that the liver produces in response to an inflammatory signal. So, measuring CRP is like a gauge or measuring stick for inflammation in your body.

In addition to the fact that having high CRP readings can increase your risk for heart attacks, the converse also proved true. Men and women with very low CRP readings rarely ever have heart attacks.

So, what about plaque?

Great question. The buildup of cholesterol in the arteries can certainly lead to cardiovascular disease and events like heart attack and stroke. But, around 50% of all heart attacks that occur happen in people with normal cholesterol or lipid levels. In other words, there are people who got a clean bill of health from their heart doctor, but still ended up having a heart attack. What’s worse is that some of these heart attacks in people with normal cholesterol levels are as severe and fatal as those in people with high cholesterol level. So, what gives? Oh, right. Inflammation. The secret killer.

How does Inflammation contribute to heart attacks?

Doctors are not completely certain exactly how this works, but the current medical opinion is that inflammation seeps inside plaque buildup, which ends up making the plaque unstable. The heart attack occurs then, when the inflammation causes the plaque buildup to rupture, causing arterial blockage, sometimes complete blockage.

Who is at risk? Does this affect the general population?

Doctors don’t necessarily recommend that the general population be concerned about being testing for inflammation levels. But more and more, research points to recommending that CRP be monitored and measured in people who are more prone to cardiovascular disease. Minimally, “a high CRP level might tip the balance in favor of more aggressive therapy with treatments that are already known to work.”

In Part 3, we’ll discuss Testing and Treatment options for Inflammation-induced Cardiovascular Risk.

(NOTE: The medical research and quotations in this article are taken from The Inflammation Research Foundation’s article on Inflammation Science, which was featured in TIME Magazine’s February 23, 2004 issue.)


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