Healthy living

Protein may predict heart disease

Zone default image CRP linked to heart disease and early death

People who have high levels of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), may be at a higher risk of heart attack and early death, according to new research.

In the study, 2,240 people had their blood tested for levels of CRP - a blood marker of inflammation - for an average of eight years. During that time, all participants were monitored for stroke and heart attack risk factors.

During the study there were 198 strokes, 156 heart-related events and 586 deaths.

Scientists from the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York found that people with over 3mg per litre of CRP in their blood were more likely to have a heart attack and 55% more likely to die early compared to people with blood levels of 1mg/litre of CRP or less.

The protein was not associated with an increased risk of stroke once other risk factors were taken into account.

"The role of this protein in predicting risk of stroke has been controversial, although prior studies have found it to be a marker for predicting risk of heart disease," said Dr. Mitchell Elkind, who led the study.

"However, in our large, multi-ethnic population, CRP levels did not play a role in predicting stroke, though they may still help determine whether someone is at risk of heart attack or early death."

CRP protein levels are associated with medical and lifestyle risk factors such as as diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.

"It appears that by living a healthy lifestyle, one may be able to lower these protein levels, thus lowering the risk of cardiac events and possibly early death," said Elkind.

The research is published in this month's Neurology journal.

This article was published on Tue 20 October 2009

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