The latest factor to determine your risk of a heart attack is the C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test. CRP is a molecule produced by the liver in response to an inflammatory response. A simple blood test can check your CRP level. A reading of 3.0 or higher triples your risk for a heart attack.
Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a short term condition; signs include swelling, redness, and warmth. The swelling and redness are caused by extra blood flow to the injured area. This brings in more infection fighting white blood cells to the area. The warmth is another of your body’s defense mechanisms. Microbes are killed by heat. In the short term, this is not a problem.
When chronic inflammation is present, the CRP levels increase. Chronic inflammation can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, long-term infections, smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure. It is also caused by plaque buildup in the blood vessels. There is now evidence that chronic low-grade inflammation causes atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Here are ways to lower CRP:
1. Lower Your Stress – proven methods include exercise, meditation, laughter, and having pets
2. Diet – olive oil, walnuts, salmon, mackerel, herring, tomatoes, blueberries, eggplant, grains, whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables all have an anti-inflammatory effect
3. Smoking – just another reason to stop
4. Dental Hygiene – science has linked cavities, gingivitis, and missing teeth to cardiovascular disease; the same bacteria that causes tooth decay, causes inflammation in the blood vessels
5. Lose Weight – fat cells secrete inflammation causing proteins into the bloodstream
6. Air Pollution – long-term exposure to car exhaust and coal power plants provokes inflammation
7. Alcohol – one drink per day has an anti-inflammatory effect
The following medications are being studied for their cardiovascular anti-inflammatory effect:
1. Statins – aside from lowering cholesterol, they may reduce CRP levels in just two weeks
2. ACE Inhibitors – lowers blood pressure as well as CRP
3. Diabetes Meds – Actos and Avandia have been shown to lower CRP
4. Aspirin – current research looks promising, another reason to take a daily aspirin
5. Multivitamins – showen to reduce CRP by 1/3 after six months
Researchers are still studying the exact connection between inflammation and heart disease. I would recommend adding a CRP test next time you are getting a routine blood test. It is rather inexpensive and could shine some light on a possible problem before it is too late.