What is CRP testing all about? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
The CRP test measures the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein that your body makes when there is inflammation. Higher CRP levels are linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease and its complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, peripheral arterial disease (hardening of the arteries in the legs, which causes leg cramps and poor circulation in the legs and feet), and sudden cardiac death.
CRP levels are measured with a simple blood test. The test is called hsCRP, which stands for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. CRP is often used as a short form for hsCRP. The high-sensitivity test is needed to accurately measure CRP at the levels that are linked to heart disease. The hsCRP test can be done at any time of day.
The higher your CRP level, the higher your risk of developing heart disease.
Very high CRP levels may be due to other causes, such as infections, autoimmune diseases (diseases where the immune system attacks the body's own tissues), and cancer. If your CRP test results are quite high (more than 10 mg/L), your doctor may recommend further testing to investigate the cause.
Your doctor will use your CRP test results, combined with other test results (such as cholesterol tests) and information from your medical history, to estimate your risk of developing heart disease and to recommend a treatment plan.
If you're a man over 50 or a woman over 60 with normal cholesterol levels and a moderate risk of developing heart disease, your doctor may recommend that you have a CRP test. Depending on the results, your doctor may recommend that you take a cholesterol-lowering medication to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
CRP testing can help identify people who are at risk for heart disease even though they appear healthy and have normal cholesterol levels. When used in combination with other testing, they can also help doctors get a clearer picture of a person's risk level. Knowing your cholesterol numbers and target levels is also important, so remember to get cholesterol testing done regularly.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should have your CRP levels tested.
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