Think a stress test and a simple blood workup are all you need to assess your heart attack risk? Wrong.
High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein Test
How It Works: A blood test measures CRP, a protein in your blood that’s a strong indicator of inflammation throughout your body.
Duration: 5 minutes
Why It’s Heart Smart: Cholesterol plaque injures blood vessels, triggering inflammation and raising CRP levels in your blood. That’s dangerous because women with high levels of CRP may be up to 4 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. A high CRP is most dangerous if you also have another risk factor: a waist circumference of more than 35 inches, indicating the presence of belly fat.
Get It If: You’re 40 or older.
What the Results Mean: If your score is under 1.0 mg per liter, your risk of developing heart disease is low. A score between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/l equals average risk. Above 3.0 mg/l, you’re at high risk. It’s possible to have high CRP without heart disease, though, because infections and injuries can also trigger a spike in levels.
“We don’t consider high CRP to be a warning sign unless we’ve done the test on three separate occasions with the same results and there’s no other reason for the inflammation,” says Dr. Agatston. If you get three high scores, you need cardiac calcium scoring and the CIMT test to check your blood vessels.
Next Steps: A statin, along with weight loss and exercise, can cut risk of heart problems in women with high CRP.