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5th March 2015

The “other” blood test that could tell you if your heart is healthy

We all know the risk factors for heart disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, smoking, etc. If we don’t have those issues we try to feel relieved. But in the back of our minds we remember the story of someone who was seemingly healthy and had a heart attack out of the blue.

And in spite of our lack of risk factors we know if it happened to them it could happen to us.

One of the major areas of research today is the role that inflammation plays in heart disease. We know that inflammation is intimately associated with clogged arteries. It creates an environment where heart disease, strokes and peripheral artery disease occur.

According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, inflammation is a marker of our busy, unhealthy lifestyles. Poor diets of processed foods, lack of physical activity, smoking and other insults to our systems trigger the inflammatory process. This increases our risk for vascular disease.

C-Reactive Protein is a marker for the inflammatory activity in our bodies. According to the medical journal, Circulation, “Over a dozen major studies demonstrate that baseline levels of CRP in apparently healthy men and women are highly predictive of future risk of heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac death, and the development of peripheral arterial disease.”

The test for C-Reactive Protein is a simple blood test. Yet, there is no broad agreement on the use of C-Reactive Protein levels for predicting future heart disease

The role of inflammation in heart disease is significant, and CRP is one of the best markers we have for the inflammatory process. Much research in the area is ongoing. CRP testing is however, has a bunch of other uses. Your doctor might order a CRP check when she suspects that you might be suffering from an inflammatory disorder like certain types of arthritis and autoimmune disorders or inflammatory bowel disease. If you’ve had surgery lately, your levels may also have been check to rule out any type of infection in your not apparent just by looking at you.

But in the meantime, it’s probably a good idea eat right, get some exercise, get plenty of sleep and don’t smoke. Because even though one guy dropped dead of a heart attack without any of the major risk factors, most people without these risk factors don’t. You’re probably not an exception.

Amy Rogers MD is not a practicing physician and nothing written here should be taken as medical advice from either Amy or This is MedTech. Medical decisions should be made with care in consultation with a healthcare provider.

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