February 7, 2005
Elevated C-Reactive Protein Best Predictor of Heart Disease
As we’ve explained in past issues, adipose tissue functions as a virtual organ, spewing out hormones and compounds (including CRP) that raise disease risk, which is one reason why weight takes such a toll on the heart.But my cholesterol is fine? Nearly 27% of Americans are thought to have elevated (greater than 2.2 mg/L) levels of CRP, while nearly 7% may have levels higher than 10 mg/L.
What’s more, research indicates that up to 35 million Americans have a total cholesterol score within normal range but above-average levels of inflammation.What does elevated CRP mean? Normal CRP levels range from less than 1.0 mg up to 3.0 mg per liter of blood.According to the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those with CRP levels greater than 3.0 mg/L have two times the relative risk for cardiovascular diseases.
The Women’s Health Study, which involved 39,876 healthy, post-menopausal women, found that those with the highest levels of CRP had five times the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and seven times the risk of having a heart attack compared with subjects with the lowest levels.This is key: CRP levels predicted risk even in women who appeared to have no other pertinent risk factors.
A Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute study published in the July 2003 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, analyzed data for the 5,417 men and women ages 65 or older who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study and found that those subjects in the highest quartile of CRP levels were 60% more likely to have a stroke, compared to those with the lowest CRP levels.
Elevated CRP levels may even affect your eye health.
But whoa — don’t go reaching for a remedy by raiding the supplement shelf.As we’ve reviewed before, antioxidant supplements will not reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, while consumption of certain vitamin pills — A and E in particular — might raise your mortality risk.Here’s what to eat to get the anti-CRP antioxidants you need:
Vitamin C: red bell peppers, papaya, citrus, kiwis and broccoli.
Alpha carotene: carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and persimmons.Beta carotene: butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots and apricots.
Beta cryptoxanthin: butternut squash, pumpkin, red pepper and tangerines.
Lycopene: watermelon, tomatoes, pink grapefruit and pink-fleshed guava.
Selenium: brazil nuts, rye, salmon and brown rice.
What else can you do? Get active.Research presented at the 52nd annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in 2003 found that people who exercised four or more times a week had CRP levels that were 34.6% lower than people who exercised less than once per week.Also, try chilling out.Duke University researchers found that people who are physically healthy but prone to anger, hostility and mild depression have levels of CRP as much as two or three times higher than their calmer counterparts.The study, published in the September 2004 Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, observed that “fifty percent of all heart attacks occur among people without any traditional risk factors (obesity, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sedentary lifestyle), so it is critical to identify other factors” — like stress.To learn how listening can help lower stress, read on.