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A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that a blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP) is more dependable in predicting heart attacks than the standard blood cholesterol test. Researchers followed almost 28,000 volunteers in the Women's Health Study and found that women with high blood levels of CRP have more than twice the chance of developing a heart attack as those with high blood cholesterol levels.

Doctors have used cholesterol to predict heart attacks since 1954 when the first reports from the Framingham study showed that men with the highest blood levels of cholesterol had the greatest chances of getting heart attacks. CRP measures inflammation. It is produced in the liver and rises to very high levels within 4-6 hours following the breaking of cells, such as after an injury, trauma, surgery, or infection. When you have an infection or trauma, fat cells and certain types of white blood cells release chemicals called cytokines into the bloodstream. This loosens fat from plaques, causing them to break off from the inner linings of arteries which can cause clots that block arteries to cause heart attacks and strokes. Other causes of inflammation include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, infections such as chlamydia or mycoplasma, gum disease, and so forth. All these factors have been shown to increase risk for heart attacks.

If you have a family history of heart attacks, or have any evidence of heart disease whatever, ask your doctor for the following tests: CRP; LDL and HDL cholesterol, to measure susceptibility to form plaques in arteries; Lp(a), that measures an abnormal tendency to form clots that cause heart attacks and strokes and can be cured by taking a simple vitamin called niacin; homocysteine, a chemical that punches holes in arteries to form plaques and can be prevented and treated just by taking vitamins; small density LDL that is a higher risk for heart attacks than just the bad LDL cholesterol; and HBA1C, a test for diabetes that is more dependable than measuring just your blood sugar level.

NEJM 11/14/02

May 19th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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