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If an individual has high cholesterol, his or her physician usually will prescribe statins, or cholesterol-lowering drugs. Studies in recent years have shown that statin therapy can lower not only LDL cholesterol, but also lower a very important inflammation marker, highsensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP).
HsCRP levels increase as the body experiences inflammation, which can occur during bacterial or viral infections, and also is linked to heart disease.
Palmetto Health Heart Hospital cardiologist Dr. Bill Phillips says, “Research suggests that inflammation plays a role in heart attack and some forms of stroke, and coronary atherosclerosis now is widely considered a disease of chronic inflammation.”
Dr. Phillips previously published a study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association in 2003 showing that blocking inflammation reduced the formation of blockages in arteries of mice with high cholesterol levels.
A recent study also published in Circulation assessed whether elevated levels of inflammation markers, including hsCRP, indicate the rapid evolution of coronary artery disease (CAD) stenosis in patients with chest pain. Coronary artery stenosis is the narrowing of the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle.
According to this study, there is evidence that hsCRP levels reflect rapid CAD progression. “This knowledge is helpful because it can help physicians identify patients who might benefit from more aggressive therapy,” says Dr. Phillips.
A high-sensitivity CRP blood test can help to determine if there is inflammation in the body. The test measures the concentration of the protein in serum that indicates acute inflammation. High levels can indicate a high risk for a heart attack. The hsCRP levels also increase at the time of a heart attack.
Research indicates that aspirin, statins and other drugs can reduce significantly hsCRP levels and protect against first and recurrent heart attacks in patients. “The hsCRP blood test can help in determining proper treatment for patients, however, not everyone is a candidate for this test,” says Dr. Phillips. The American Heart Association also does not recommend universal testing at this time, but it may be beneficial in some patients.