Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Categories
Subscribe to the Magazine for free
Subscribe for free to keep reading! If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

How to Interpret Your CRP Blood Test

Medically reviewed by 
 
How to Interpret Your CRP Blood Test

The prevalence of inflammation and its association with chronic diseases has become a significant concern. Chronic inflammation is implicated in many health issues, ranging from cardiovascular diseases to autoimmune disorders. More than 50% of all deaths are estimated to be related to inflammatory conditions. The detrimental impact of sustained inflammation on overall health outcomes underscores the importance of quantifying and managing inflammatory markers as a fundamental facet of preventive healthcare. Addressing inflammation early can mitigate the risk of complications and enhance overall well-being. In this context, C-reactive protein (CRP) stands out as a valuable diagnostic tool, offering insights into the body's inflammatory status. By incorporating CRP testing into routine health assessments, individuals and healthcare professionals can collaboratively navigate personalized strategies for health management, providing a proactive approach to maintaining optimal health and preventing the onset or progression of inflammatory-related conditions.

[signup]

What Is CRP and Its Role in the Body?

CRP stands for C-reactive protein, and it is an acute-phase protein produced by the liver as part of an inflammatory response to conditions like infection, injury, autoimmune disease, and other chronic inflammatory diseases. 

The pro- and anti-inflammatory roles of CRP help the body recognize and clear pathogens and damaged cells by binding them, facilitating the recognition of these targets for removal by other immune system components. CRP also activates the complement system, a group of proteins that augments the immune response by eliminating pathogens, clearing cellular debris, and enhancing immune system efficiency. (18)

CRP can be measured with a blood test to assess the presence and severity of inflammation. Unlike other inflammatory biomarkers, like erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), CRP levels rise and fall rapidly in response to the inflammatory stimulus and the resolution of the inflammatory response. Persistent elevations of CRP are noted in chronic inflammatory conditions. (18)

Reasons for a CRP Test

When inflammation occurs, CRP levels rise rapidly, making it a valuable biomarker for assessing the presence and severity of inflammatory processes. While CRP does not specify the cause of inflammation, elevated levels prompt further investigation to identify the underlying condition. The CRP blood test is a crucial tool in clinical settings for diagnosing and monitoring inflammatory diseases, assessing treatment efficacy, and evaluating cardiovascular risk. (3

A CRP test may be ordered to assess and monitor inflammation in the body. One common reason is identifying and evaluating infections, as CRP levels rise rapidly in response to microbial invaders. Additionally, the test is used to diagnose and manage chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, other autoimmune disorders, or malignancy. Aside from diagnosis, healthcare professionals may also use CRP testing to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for inflammatory conditions, as decreasing CRP levels can indicate a positive response to therapy. Overall, the CRP test is a valuable tool in diagnosing, assessing the severity, and managing a range of inflammatory conditions affecting different organs and systems within the body. (3) CRP can be ordered through Rupa Health as the following test:

In the context of cardiovascular health, measuring hs-CRP (high sensitivity-CRP) is often preferred to CRP. hs-CRP is a more sensitive test for measuring low levels of CRP. It is designed to detect minor elevations in CRP associated with chronic, low-grade inflammation. hs-CRP is mainly used in cardiovascular risk assessment, as elevated levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because atherosclerosis is associated with vascular inflammation, a leading factor in the development and progression of cardiovascular disease. Rupa Health offers the following hs-CRP tests:

Interpreting CRP Test Results

When interpreting CRP results, the following ranges should be kept in mind (18):  

  • Normal: < 0.3 mg/dL
  • Normal or Minor Elevation: 0.3-1.0 mg/dL 
  • Moderate Elevation: 1.0-10 mg/dL 
  • Marked Elevation: > 10 mg/dL
  • Severe Elevation > 50 mg/dL 

When used for cardiovascular risk stratification, the following ranges for hs-CRP should be used (18):  

  • Low Risk: < 1.0 mg/dL 
  • Moderate Risk: 1.0-3.0 mg/dL 
  • High Risk: > 3.0 mg/dL 

High CRP Levels and Potential Health Implications

It's important to note that while CRP is a valuable marker of inflammation, it doesn't specify the cause of inflammation. Additional tests and clinical evaluation are often needed to determine the underlying cause of elevated CRP levels. If you have concerns about your CRP levels or inflammation, it's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and appropriate management.

A moderate-to-severe elevation of CRP indicates that a patient likely has active inflammation. 

Moderate elevations (1.0-10 mg/dL) of CRP may indicate any of the following conditions (3, 18):

  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Heart attack
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Malignancy

Marked elevations (> 10 mg/dL) of CRP may indicate the following conditions (3, 18):

  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Systemic vasculitis
  • Trauma
  • Malignancy

Very high CRP levels (> 50 mg/dL) of CRP, considered to be severely elevated, are associated with acute bacterial infections about 90% of the time (3, 18).

Factors That Can Affect CRP Levels

Contextualizing CRP results based on individual health profiles is an important aspect of CRP result interpretation, as minor CRP elevations can be seen without pathologic systemic inflammation. Recent injury, obesity, depression, insomnia, the common cold, gingivitis, periodontitis, and diabetes are medical comorbidities that will cause mild elevations in CRP. Lifestyle factors (e.g., cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, taking hormone replacement therapy) and pregnancy can also lead to CRP elevations. People assigned female at birth, older adults, and African Americans tend to have naturally higher levels of CRP than other populations. (10, 18

Conversely, certain factors can also falsely decrease CRP levels. Magnesium and niacin supplementation, prescription statin and fibrate medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can all decrease CRP. (10, 18)

Reducing High CRP Levels

Adopting certain lifestyle changes can be beneficial in reducing high CRP levels. The following lifestyle modifications can be adapted as part of a CRP management regimen:

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Diet is a significant modifiable risk factor and contributor to chronic inflammation. A positive association exists between adherence to a Western dietary pattern, characterized by high consumption of processed foods, red meat, sugary beverages/sweets, and a low intake of fruits and vegetables, and higher serum levels of hs-CRP. 

However, the opposite is true for anti-inflammatory dietary patterns. The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and fish, moderate in dairy products and wine, and low in red meat and processed foods, is associated with low levels of plasma CRP and other inflammatory markers.

Exercise

Regular physical activity is another essential component, as exercise has anti-inflammatory effects and can help regulate CRP levels. Studies consistently demonstrate an inverse relationship between physical activity and CRP – meaning that the more physically active an individual is, the lower their CRP levels are. Exercise likely reduces CRP by reducing inflammatory cytokine production, increasing insulin sensitivity, improving endothelial function, and reducing body weight. Engaging in aerobic activities like walking, jogging, or swimming, as well as incorporating strength training, can contribute to a healthier inflammatory profile. (7)

Stress Management

Psychological stress activates the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, releasing hormones and neurotransmitters involved in the physiologic stress response. Chronic stress (and the chronic secretion of these hormones) can result in acute-phase inflammatory reactions, leading to elevated CRP and other acute-phase reactants. Significant elevations in CRP have been measured in individuals under severe chronic stress. (20

Stress management techniques, including mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, are crucial in addressing the impact of stress on inflammation. Adopting relaxation practices can help mitigate HPA axis and nervous system dysfunction to reverse their inflammatory effects. (7

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep deprivation has been associated with an increase in CRP, suggesting a potential link between inadequate sleep and heightened systemic inflammation. Addressing sleep disorders becomes crucial in reducing CRP levels, as poor sleep quality and insufficient duration can disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm, leading to an imbalance in inflammatory processes. Diagnosing and treating sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, becomes essential to managing inflammation. Adequate and restful sleep allows the body to undergo necessary repair and regeneration, contributing to a healthier inflammatory profile. Incorporating good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, limiting screen time before bedtime, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine in the evening, can promote deep and restorative sleep. 

The Role of CRP Testing in Ongoing Health Management 

CRP testing plays a pivotal role in health management by providing valuable insights into the effectiveness of treatment plans for inflammatory diseases and assessing cardiovascular risk over time. Monitoring CRP levels allows healthcare professionals to gauge the response to therapeutic interventions. Additionally, regular CRP testing as part of preventive care enables tracking changes in inflammation levels over time, contributing to identifying potential health risks before they manifest clinically. This comprehensive approach to preventive healthcare involves using CRP tests to assess an individual's inflammatory status and cardiovascular risk, allowing for timely adjustments in treatment plans and lifestyle interventions. By integrating CRP testing into routine health assessments, healthcare providers can proactively address inflammatory markers and cardiovascular health, fostering a more personalized and preventive approach to overall well-being.

[signup]

Interpreting Your CRP Blood Test: Final Thoughts

Understanding and correctly interpreting CRP test results hold immense significance in proactive and preventive health management. CRP serves as a valuable indicator of inflammation, aiding in the diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of various inflammatory conditions, as well as assessing cardiovascular risk. The information gleaned from CRP tests empowers individuals and healthcare professionals to make informed decisions about treatment plans, lifestyle modifications, and preventive measures. Ask your healthcare provider to add CRP to your next set of blood work to harness this diagnostic tool's full benefits.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More
No items found.

Lab Tests in This Article

References

1. Blake, K. (2023, May 22). Anti Inflammatory Diet 101: What to Eat and Avoid Plus Specialty Labs To Monitor Results. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/anti-inflammatory-diet

2. Brinkman, J. E., & Sharma, S. (2023, April 3). Physiology of Sleep. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482512/

3. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) Test. (2022, May 17). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/23056-c-reactive-protein-crp-test

4. C-reactive protein test. (2022, December 22). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-reactive-protein-test/about/pac-20385228

5. Cloyd, J. (2023, April 4). Integrative Medicine Approach to Patients with Sleep Apnea. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/integrative-medicine-approach-to-patients-with-sleep-apnea

6. Cloyd, J. (2023, August 25). A Root Cause Medicine Protocol For Patients With Insomnia: Testing, Therapeutic Diet, and Supportive Supplements. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/a-root-cause-medicine-protocol-for-patients-with-insomnia-testing-therapeutic-diet-and-supportive-supplements

7. Cloyd, J. (2023, November 13). The Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle: From Diet to Mindfulness. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/the-anti-inflammatory-lifestyle-from-diet-to-mindfulness

8. Cloyd, J. (2023, December 5). Inflammation and Heart Disease: A Functional Medicine Approach to Prevention and Treatment. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/inflammation-and-heart-disease-a-functional-medicine-approach-to-prevention-and-treatment

9. Creedon, K. (2022, August 4). 6 Speciality Labs That Get To The Root Cause Of Insomnia. Www.rupahealth.com. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/6-speciality-labs-that-get-to-the-root-cause-of-insomnia

10. Devkota, B. P. (2022). C-Reactive Protein. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2086909-overview#a2

11. Hapuarachchi, J. R., Chalmers, A. H., Winefield, A. H., et al. (2003). Changes in Clinically Relevant Metabolites with Psychological Stress Parameters. Behavioral Medicine, 29(2), 52–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/08964280309596057

12. Kasapis, C., & Thompson, P. D. (2005). The effects of physical activity on serum C-reactive protein and inflammatory markers: a systematic review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 45(10), 1563–1569. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2004.12.077

13. Khakham, C. (2023, October 13). What Are The Global Impacts of The Western Diet On Health? Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/what-are-the-global-impacts-of-the-western-diet-on-health

14. Khayyatzadeh, S. S., Bagherniya, M., Fazeli, M., et al. (2018). A Western dietary pattern is associated with elevated level of high sensitive C-reactive protein among adolescent girls. European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 48(4), e12897. https://doi.org/10.1111/eci.12897

15. Lahoz, C., Castillo, E., Mostaza, J. M., et al. (2018). Relationship of the Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Its Main Components with CRP Levels in the Spanish Population. Nutrients, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10030379

16. Malani, S. (2023, February 22). Inflammatory Markers 101: How To Interpret. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/inflammatory-markers-101-what-do-they-mean

17. Meier-Ewert, H. K., Ridker, P. M., Rifai, N., et al. (2004). Effect of sleep loss on C-Reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 43(4), 678–683. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2003.07.050

18. Nehring, S. M., & Patel, B. C. (2019, April 21). C Reactive Protein (CRP). National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441843/

19. Preston, J. (2023, September 22). Addressing Inflammation in Chronic Diseases: A Functional Medicine Perspective. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/addressing-inflammation-in-chronic-diseases-a-functional-medicine-perspective

20. Shivpuri, S., Gallo, L. C., Crouse, J. R., et al. (2011). The association between chronic stress type and C-reactive protein in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis: does gender make a difference? Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35(1), 74–85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-011-9345-5

21. Yoshimura, H. (2023, October 11). An Integrative Medicine Approach to Circadian Rhythm Disorders. Rupa Health. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/an-integrative-medicine-approach-to-circadian-rhythm-disorders

Subscribe to the Magazine for free. to keep reading!
Subscribe for free to keep reading, If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.