Move Over Cholesterol: Two Tests Trump One

The number one killer in the U.S. is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?a cause of heart attacks and strokes. For years, blood cholesterol has been the benchmark for risk. But now researchers realize that inflammation is central to the development of CVD. A protein called C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of the best markers for inflammation. Until now, however, scientists have debated whether it was any better than LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in accurately predicting who is at risk. Now we know the answer.

CRP Proves Mettle, Lauded by Experts. This past November, three studies were presented at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans. Combined with earlier research, the findings favor combining high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP) testing with LDL-cholesterol to determine CVD risk. The studies confirm that hsCRP results can identify people at risk for a heart attack or stroke who might otherwise be classified at a lower risk based solely on their LDL levels.

The CRP-CVD link was so convincing in one study that the researchers halted it early to allow all the study participants to benefit from the statin drug Crestor, which lowered their CRP levels.

What to Do. It’s official; hsCRP is an excellent predictor of CVD risk, even when LDLs are normal. Using both indicators is your best bet, so ask your doctor to order hsCRP with your next lipid profile. If your CRP level is high, follow the tips below.

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