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So if C-reactive protein isn't a cause of heart disease, what is?

June 30, 2009 |  5:34 pm

Pressure Smoking. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Lousy diet. Being overweight or obese....  They're more pedestrian, but the old standbys rarely disappoint.

C-reactive protein, on the other hand, has. A telltale sign of inflammation in the body, the protein is not proving to be one of the causes of heart disease that some had thought. That reality check is the subject of much discussion today. A Reuters story states: "Measuring a compound called C-reactive protein helps identify people with heart disease, but ... there is no reason to think that elevated levels of the substance itself cause heart problems."

The story refers to two new studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

One study specifically dismisses C-reactive protein's significance in the development of heart disease. It's essentially just a sign of inflammation, the researchers said, not a cause.

The other study suggested that, while it and other biomarkers might help predict cardiovascular problems, the substances are unlikely to be useful in determining treatment.

So don't stress over your blood's level of C-reactive protein. A quick self-analysis can tell you much of what you need to know about your heart disease risk.

Here to help are online tools from CardioSmart, courtesy of the American College of Cardiology; Healthline; and the American Heart Assn.

No blood necessary.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Having your blood pressure checked isn't a bad idea.

Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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