Heart Beat: Gains for new heart disease marker

Heart Beat

Gains for new heart disease marker

C-reactive protein (CRP), one of the newest villains in heart disease, may be inching closer to joining high cholesterol as a cause of this all-too-common malady.

In two separate studies of people at very high risk for heart attack and stroke, cholesterol-lowering statin therapy proved more effective at preventing heart attacks or halting the progression of artery-clogging plaque when CRP levels fell along with cholesterol. These results, which were published in the January 6, 2005, New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that CRP may be more than just an innocent bystander, and that it may actually play a role in heart disease.

News reports said the results will change how doctors use statins. That's already happening in the management of people who have heart disease, like those in the two studies. We'll need the results from an ongoing study known as JUPITER before we know if statin therapy makes sense for seemingly healthy people with normal cholesterol levels but high CRP. In the meantime, experts are split on whether everyone should have their CRP measured and whether CRP levels should determine if statin therapy is adequate.

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