What is hs-CRP?

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein that the liver makes when there is inflammation in the body. It's also called a marker of inflammation, and can be measured with an hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein) test, sometimes also called a CRP test. Inflammation is a way for the body to protect itself from injuries or infections, and inflammation can be caused by smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Excessive inflammation has been linked to heart disease.

Why is hs-CRP tested?

hs-CRP testing is used to predict the risk of developing heart disease and its complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, peripheral arterial disease, and sudden cardiac death. Higher hs-CRP levels are linked to a higher risk of these problems.

About 50% of all heart attacks and strokes affect people who seem healthy and have normal cholesterol levels. hs-CRP testing offers a way to identify some of these people so that they can reduce their heart disease risk before they have a heart attack or stroke. That's why it's important to have both hs-CRP and cholesterol tests if your doctor recommends it. Ask your doctor if you should have your cholesterol and/or hs-CRP levels tested.

How is hs-CRP tested?

CRP is measured with a simple blood test, called a high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP), that can be done in the lab using a blood test. To save time, hs-CRP testing can be done at the same time as cholesterol testing. However, it can also be done separately. hs-CRP testing can be done at any time of day because it does not require fasting.

What do the results mean?

In general, the higher the hs-CRP, the higher your risk of developing heart disease and its complications such as heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and sudden cardiac death. The lower your hs-CRP levels, the better. Some people with high hs-CRP levels may need to take cholesterol medications to reduce their risk of heart disease, even if their cholesterol levels are not high.

Keep in mind that hs-CRP levels are just part of the picture. Your doctor will also consider other factors when calculating your risk of heart disease and recommending a treatment plan.

Do I need an hs-CRP test?

Ask your doctor whether you should have a hs-CRP test. Your doctor will decide whether a hs-CRP test is appropriate, based on your age and your risk of heart disease.