The level of c-reactive protein (crp) increases when there is inflammation in the body. A simple blood test can be done to check your c-reactive protein level.
a high-sensitivity c-reactive protein (hs-crp) test is more sensitive than a standard crp test. That means the high-sensitivity test can detect mild increases within the normal range of standard CRP levels. The hs-crp test can be used to determine your risk of developing coronary artery disease, a condition in which the arteries in your heart become narrowed. coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack.
why is it done
Your doctor may order a CRP test to:
- check for swelling due to infection
- help diagnose a chronic inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
- determine your risk of heart disease
- assess your risk of a second heart attack
- normal: less than 10 mg/l
- high: equal to or greater than 10 mg/l
- lower risk of heart disease: hs-crp level less than 2.0 mg/l
- increased risk of heart disease: hs-crp level equal to or greater than 2.0 mg/l
a note on crp tests for heart disease
a high level of hs-crp in the blood has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks. Also, people with a high level of hs-crp who have had a heart attack are more likely to have another than those with a normal level of hs-crp.
an hs-crp test is not recommended for everyone. the test doesn’t show the cause of the inflammation, and a high level may mean that the inflammation isn’t affecting your heart, especially if the level is significantly higher than normal.
an hs-crp test may be most helpful for people who have a 10% to 20% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, or intermediate risk. Your doctor will determine your level of risk using screening score tests that consider your lifestyle choices, family history, and current health status.
If you’re at high risk for a heart attack, you should always get treatment and take steps to protect your heart health, regardless of your hs-crp level.
how do you prepare
Very strenuous exercise, such as intense weight training or a very long run, can cause sudden increases in your CRP level. your doctor may tell you to avoid such activities before your test.
If your blood sample will be used for further testing, you may need to avoid eating or drinking for a certain period of time before the test. For example, if you’re having an hs-crp test to check for heart disease, your doctor will likely order a cholesterol test at the same time.
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Your doctor or nurse will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your test.
some medicines can affect your crp level. always tell your doctor about the medicines you take, including those you buy without a prescription.
what you can expect
To take a sample of your blood, a member of your health care team will insert a needle into a vein in your arm, usually in the crook of your elbow. the blood sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. you can return to your usual activities immediately.
It may take a few days to get the results. Your doctor will explain what your test results mean.
crp is measured in milligrams per liter (mg/l). the results of a standard crp test are usually given as follows:
Note: Abnormal range values may vary depending on the laboratory performing the test. a high crp test result is a sign of acute inflammation. It may be due to a serious infection, injury, or chronic illness. your doctor will recommend other tests to determine the cause.
results of an hs-crp test are usually given as follows:
a person’s crp levels vary over time. An assessment of coronary artery disease risk should be based on the average of two HS-CRP tests, ideally taken two weeks apart. values above 2.0 mg/L may reflect an increased risk of heart attacks or risk of a recurrent heart attack.
remember that your hs-crp level is only one risk factor for coronary artery disease. If you have a high hs-crp level, it definitely doesn’t mean you have an overall higher risk of developing heart disease. Other tests are needed to further assess your risk.
Talk to your doctor about all of your risk factors and ways you can try to prevent coronary artery disease and heart attack. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medications to lower your risk of a heart attack.