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What is CRP?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance found in human blood. The body produces this protein in response to infection, making it a substance which can be targeted in blood tests which look for signs of systemic infection. A CRP test is a quick and relatively painless procedure which can be performed on an outpatient basis at a hospital or medical clinic, and it can provide rapid information about a patient's condition.

Under normal conditions, low levels of CRP are present in the blood. When an infection occurs, the liver and fat cells start to produce CRP, at levels which can vary, depending on the nature of the infection. Specific diseases can sometimes attach particular sugars to this protein, leaving tell-tale fingerprints which have potential diagnostic uses. Once the infection is resolved, the protein breaks down, returning to negligible or low levels.

If a doctor suspects that a patient may have an infection, a blood test may be ordered to check for levels of CRP and other substances in the blood. The test can also be used to monitor the progress of a chronic condition such as cancer or arthritis, and to see how the body is responding to a particular medication. If protein levels drop after a medication change, it suggests that the medication may be working, causing the infection to die down. Normal ranges for CRP vary, depending on the patient and his or her medical history.

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In addition to being useful in the evaluation of particular medical conditions, levels of this protein can also be used as a yardstick for general health. Using what is known as an highly sensitive CRP (hs-CRP) test, a laboratory can detect the very low levels of CRP present in the blood of people without active infections. Higher levels of ambient CRP appear to be linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

In addition to infection, several other things appear to be able to impact the production of this protein. A high amount of dietary fat can cause an increase, especially if the fat comes from transfats. Pregnancy also appears to elevate CRP levels, as does the use of hormonal birth control products. Liver disease can also alter the level of these proteins in the blood, since the liver is involved in the production of C-reactive protein. If a hs-CRP test comes back with a somewhat high level, a doctor may ask a few questions to rule out these potential causes.

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Tomislav
Post 3

I had never heard of this CRP stuff either, I guess I should learn from my husband who goes and gets a physical yearly! But I also read an article on CRP so I wonder if it is starting to get more publicity because of its effectiveness as an indicator of what is going on in someone's body.

The surprising thing I read was that if you are on the pill, was that a study found that women who are on the pill had CRP levels twice as high as those who are aren't. The thought was that the hormones in birth control tell the liver to produce CRP.

Now to get my yearly physical appointment and ask for a CRP reading...

Sinbad
Post 2

I must admit - I do the same thing, I use the vibrating toothbrush and have stopped with the flossing. But from everything I have read, it is not that the vibrating toothbrush replaces floss, it is just better than plain brushing. So if you are just a plain ol' brusher and you don't floss than the vibrating toothbrush is going to be better than just plain ol' brushing.

I did read one comment about flossing that made me laugh - about someone needing to invent a replacement for flossing because no one likes to do it! How true.

I also read in addition to flossing lowering your CRP levels you can reduce these levels by reducing the refined cars such as bread, muffins and cold breakfast cereal that you eat.

amysamp
Post 1

I literally had just read about CRP in a magazine for tests to let you know how you are functioning. The doctor who had written the article had highly suggested having this test done because of the great information it gave and as the article said it is relatively painless.

The article also gave an interesting tip - to lower your CRP levels you should...floss!

It turns out that sneaky bacteria that makes your have some serious halitosis also can inflame your arteries, or maybe it was your bloodstream...either way that bacteria can increase your CRP number.

I tried to use that information on my husband who does not like to floss (but really who does...) and he said that he is fine because he uses a vibrating tooth brush for two minutes every day and night. Is this true - can you swap out floss for a vibrating toothbrush?

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