Did you know that there is a blood test that can indicate your risk of heart attack?

With the recent passing of Raju Srivastav after a long battle for health by suffering a heart attack at his gym, and many other celebrities we’ve lost to heart attacks in the last two years, paranoia around heart health is at its peak. Until a few years ago, we believed that someone who was physically fit and exercised regularly would have good heart health, but the line seems to be blurring. Most of the celebrities who made headlines with their untimely deaths were fit, healthy, and exercised regularly. So is there a way to determine heart attack risk? Well, it looks like there’s a blood test that can indicate heart problems. The test is called Cardio – C-Reactive Protein (hs CRP). Keep in mind that a single reading may not give a clear picture of cardiac risk, but persistently high readings may tell you it’s time to see a doctor and take the necessary steps.

What is the cardio C-reactive protein (hs CRP) test?

Cardio C-reactive protein, also known as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs CRP), is a simple blood test. According to Bikram Kesharee Mohanty, MD, senior consultant, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon (adult and pediatric), visiting consultant at the National Heart Institute, “CRP or standard CRP is an inflammatory marker, which means that whenever there is a infection anywhere in the body, the level of CRP in the blood increases, hs-CRP is more sensitive than standard CRP. In an otherwise healthy human being, if the hs-CRP level is high, it is an indicator or an alarm that the individual is more likely to have blockages in the arteries of the heart, heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, stroke or arterial blockages of the arms. and legs in the future.”

Dr. Vivek Chaturvedi, Professor and HOD, Cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, further adds: “Cardio C-reactive protein or HSCRP is a test that has recently come into prominence and is available as part of various research packages. It is a marker of chronic or prolonged low-level inflammation. Inflammation is a reaction of our body against infection, stress, certain autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, etc. When we see red spots on our skin after an insect bite, this is due to inflammation. Inflammation is appropriate in the short term, but it can be harmful to our bodies when it is present for longer periods of time. A low level of long-term inflammation in the heart has been linked to increased problems with heart attack, sudden death, and the need for angioplasty or bypass, etc. compared to those who do not have elevated hsCRP.”

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He further states, “Cardio C-reactive protein, or hsCRP, is just one piece of the puzzle that is heart health. It should not be considered in isolation. Some studies have found that high hsCRP levels increase risk even in the absence of other heart disease risk factors, but this is still controversial. However, we are fairly certain that the risk due to other heart disease risk factors (such as high blood pressure, diabetes) is further increased in the presence of increased hsCRP. It is very important to remember that any recent infection can cause CRP and hsCRP to rise for several weeks. Therefore, it cannot be interpreted if you had a recent infection or if you have other autoimmune diseases that can cause the CRP to rise. I have been approached for consultation by several healthy people after becoming anxious due to a bold hsCRP value that was part of the so-called “whole body tests” that have become so common since the Covid pandemic! It definitely doesn’t mean you’re going to have a heart attack! Always, hsCRP results, like any other test, should be interpreted in a clinical context.”

What do the numbers say?

High numbers indicate that a healthy human being is more prone to heart diseases such as blocked arteries, heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease in the future.

According to Anupam Goel, MD, Director – Interventional Cardiology, Max Hospital, Saket, “Along with other risk factors and lipid panels, elevated Hs-CRP could be a marker of high CVD risk even in apparently healthy individuals and could be the indication of heart health. When hs CPR is high, it should be repeated twice, optimally two weeks apart (in patients free of infection or acute illness) to confirm that the person has persistently low levels of inflammation. High hs CRP is a marker of inflammation only and is not specific for predicting heart disease. These values ​​are only part of the total evaluation of heart disease and should be taken into account along with high cholesterol, sugar, hypertension, smoking and other risk factors for CVD.

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Elevated CRP levels are almost always associated with other risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, obesity, an inactive lifestyle, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood pressure, abnormal levels of blood sugar lipids and excess fat).

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Regular screening is important after 40

People over the age of 40 should have a regular yearly heart checkup that includes blood tests for all systems (kidney, liver, sugar, and cholesterol), chest X-ray, EKG, echocardiography, and treadmill testing if needed. If the individual falls into the high-risk category for heart disease, meaning they have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, a history of chronic smoking, heavy drinking, or obesity, and especially if the individual has symptoms of heart disease. such as chest pain or discomfort and shortness of breath, etc., these tests should be done even before the age of 40 and consult a cardiologist.

Dr. Vivek explains: “There are many controversies regarding executive check-ups and routine tests to take care of your heart health. People panic because every day we hear about people collapsing at the gym, while riding a bike, etc. What is definitely recommended for everyone from the age of 30 is regular blood pressure monitoring, weight measurement, sugar and cholesterol. The rate can be decided on an individual basis based on underlying cardiac risk. Even 2-3 annual glucose and cholesterol tests, and an annual blood pressure check are quite reasonable in healthy and fit people. People who are at higher risk of heart disease, for example, strong family history of heart disease, people with diabetes, obesity, people recovering from severe COVID, etc., should be screened more often and also more extensively with additional tests. These may include specialized kidney and urine tests, echocardiogram, etc. In sedentary patients at high risk for heart disease, a treadmill test or coronary calcium score may also be reasonable. In very few selected cases with high risk of disease and atypical cardiac symptoms, a coronary CT angiogram is also ordered.”

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How to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle?

Living a heart-healthy lifestyle has also been shown to reduce inflammation and lower hsCRP. This includes completely avoiding active and passive exposure to smoking and tobacco; a healthy diet of mostly unprocessed, high-fiber foods, maintaining ideal body weight, and regular physical activity.

Dr Ankur Phatarpekar, Director of Cathlab and Interventional Cardiologist, Symbiosis Hospital, Mumbai shares: “The different preventive measures that can be taken to keep the heart healthy can be classified as lifestyle modifications and drug-based treatments. . Lifestyle modifications that can be made include eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. These lifestyle modifications also help reduce blood glucose and blood pressure that affect the heart. Medication-based treatments include treatments for CVD in addition to treatment for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose.”