Updated: Oct 25, 2021
What is CRP – and why should you care about it?
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein found in the blood that is an accurate biomarker for inflammation in your body – both general inflammation, as well as cardiac-related inflammation.
It is measured by a simple blood test called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP).
An otherwise healthy individual who has a high hsCRP level is four times more likely to have heart and blood vessel disease.
In another large study, the Physicians’ Health Study of 18,000 healthy physicians, an elevated CRP level was associated with a 3-fold increase in heart attack risk. In a subgroup of these physicians, a high level of CRP was associated with peripheral artery disease, even in participants who had normal cholesterol levels.
Where does this inflammation come from?
Inflammation can come from a variety of inflammatory conditions in the body including environmental pollutants, food sensitivities, increased intestinal permeability, heavy metals accumulations as well as undiscovered or untreated fungal, bacterial and viral infections including periodontal disease.
A Mayo Clinic study found that the greater the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, the greater the risk for heart disease.
Lifestyle factors, particularly diet, make a big contribution to the inflammatory burden in your body. Some of these risk factors include:
Eating fast food. Eating fast food just one time a week could spike your CRP.
Smoking – including e-cigarettes and possibly marijuana
Being a couch potato
Eating sugary desserts
Drinking soda pop
Eating deep-fried foods
Eating foods containing partially hydrogenated oils
If you do have signs of high inflammation in your body, then what can you do about it?
So many conditions yet one central causative factor: inflammation. The silver lining is that anything you can do to quench the inflammation should also help you in multiple ways. So what can you do?
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet:
Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week (trout, salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel)
Olive oil – for sautéing and in salad dressings
Liberal use of anti-inflammatory spices – like turmeric, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, clove, sage, and rosemary
Plenty of green, yellow, and orange vegetables
Dark red, blue, and purple berries
Avoid foods you know you are allergic (or even sensitive) to, since these adverse food reactions will feed inflammation.
Move to improve CRP levels
The most potent anti-inflammatory known to woman or man? Believe it or not, it's called moving around. Regular, moderately intense exercise can significantly lower your CRP. For example, one 12-week study in women who had type 2 diabetes found that aerobic exercise – starting with 8 minutes of jogging and 8 minutes of running and working up to 32 minutes – significantly decreased CRP and other biomarkers of inflammation.
Yoga and meditation are the most often mentioned options to lower stress, but it doesn't have to be all so serious. Gardening, wood working, baking, heck fishing! Any focused activity where you lose all sense of time because you either love it (or, in the case of yoga, hate it when you're in those grueling long held asanas!) so much. One study found that one hour of yoga daily, six days a week for three months, lowered CRP. Reduce environmental stress by exercising indoors in areas free of smoke, smog, and pollution.
Thorne’s Heart Health At-Home Test uses a simple finger-stick blood-spot test to measure CRP levels (using hsCRP technology), along with levels of triglycerides, insulin, HbA1C, and a couple of cholesterol markers. Or you could ask your MD next time you're in for a check-up.
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Blood tests to determine risk of coronary artery disease: test details. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/16792-blood-tests-to-determine-risk-of-coronary-artery-disease/test-details
Ridker P, Cushman M, Stampfer M. Plasma concentration of C-reactive protein and risk of developing peripheral vascular disease. Circulation 1998;97(5):425-428.
Rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890244/
Link between heart attacks and inflammatory bowel disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1160597/
Gum disease and heart disease: the common thread. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread
Rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease: Mayo Clinic studies shed light on dangerous connection. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/rheumatoid-arthritis-and-heart-disease-mayo-clinic-studies-shed-light-on-dangerous-connection/
Yeo R, Yoon S, Kim O. The association between food-group consumption patterns and early metabolic syndrome risk in non-diabetic healthy people. Clin Nutr Res2017;6(3):172-182.
Souza P, Marcadenti A, Portal V. Effects of olive oil phenolic compounds on inflammation in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease. Nutrients 2017 Sep 30;9(10). pii: E1087. doi: 10.3390/nu9101087.
Whalen K, McCullough M, Flanders W, et al. Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet pattern scores are inversely associated with biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative balance in adults. J Nutr 2016 Jun;146(6):1217-1226.
Saghebjoo M, Nezamdoost Z, Ahmadabadi F, et al. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic training on serum levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, lipid profile and anthropometric characteristics in middle-age women patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Syndr 2018;12(2):163-168.
Smoking and inflammation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1160597/