C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance created by the liver or adipocytes in situations of inflammatory processes present in the body.
Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (determined by an appropriate blood test) are considered a nonspecific “marker” for a disease. This means that CRP indicates that there is some inflammation in the body, but can not determine its exact location. In addition to CRP, there are other inflammatory markers in the blood, such as fibrinogen, amyloid A, and interleukin-6.
In fact, such elevated levels may indicate typical inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, vasculitis, and others. But above all, this protein is a marker of cardiovascular health.
Data from a number of studies have shown that in the long run, low levels of chronic inflammation in the body can lead to serious age-related chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, etc.).
What are the symptoms of elevated C-reactive protein levels?
Unfortunately, elevated levels of CRP in the body do not have clear, visible symptoms that can be easily noticed.
What are the reasons that lead to increased CRP levels?
Elevated levels of this protein can be a sign of some serious diseases, including cardiovascular, malignant, infections and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflamed intestines, etc.
The chronic inflammation behind CRP can also be genetically caused, but the most common cause is poor lifestyle – increased stress, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking (constant exposure to toxins), etc.
Nutrition is perhaps the most important of these factors, as it plays the most important role. Especially dangerous are refined products and everything that is meant by highly-processed food.
How is elevated C-reactive protein diagnosed?
As mentioned earlier, CRP levels are determined by an appropriate blood test. There are two types of CRP tests.
With the first type we can determine a non-specific increase in protein that is generally the result of inflammatory processes in the body, but we can not determine the exact location of the inflammation.
The second type of test, i.e. high sensitivity (high-specific) or hs-CRP test is actually a measure of inflammation in blood vessels. This is the test we need to determine the risk of a cardiovascular disease. There is a well-defined interval of CRP levels to determine this risk. Namely, if the test shows that the CRP level is less than 1.0mg per liter of blood, then the risk of heart disease is particularly low; if the test shows that the CRP level is between 1.0 and 3.0 mg, then the risk is average, and if the CRP values are above 3.0 mg per liter of blood, then the risk of heart disease is considered very high.
Some experts recommend routine hs-CRP testing whenever triglyceride and cholesterol levels are checked.
In people diagnosed with inflammatory disease (some of the above), the hs-CRP test can not be used to determine the risk of cardiovascular disease, as they certainly have elevated CRP levels (often above 100mg per liter of blood). But of course they can “calculate” their risk through standard tests to determine triglycerides (fats) and total blood cholesterol.
There are medications to reduce C-reactive protein, but the most important thing is to treat the causes, not the consequences.
Most often, doctors prescribe the same drugs that reduce LDL cholesterol, statins, to reduce CRP.
But the most important are the additional tips you will receive, and that is a lifestyle change. We can reduce the chronic inflammatory processes that actually caused the increase in the level of C-reactive protein by leading a healthy lifestyle, but what is meant by this?
• Healthy diet
• Regular physical activity
• Non-smoking and eliminating or minimizing alcohol consumption
• Eating foods healthy for the heart, ie cardiovascular health
◦ foods without saturated fats (animal feed)
◦ foods with healthy fats and omega 3 fatty acids (nuts and plant foods)
◦ foods rich in antioxidants (fresh foods, fruits, vegetables, spices)