Testing for C-reactive protein may be a good way to keep tabs on the inflammation that causes heart attacks.
Since the mid-1990s or so, researchers have changed the way they look at atherosclerosis. They used to regard it as a gradual buildup of fat- and cholesterol-filled plaques inside arteries. Now they see an inflammatory process that sometimes has a nasty, volcanic climax: A plaque ruptures, spilling its contents into the bloodstream, causing a potentially fatal traffic jam of blood clots and other factors.
This new view of atherosclerosis has doctors hunting for ways to detect inflammation early. So far, the strongest candidate is C-reactive protein (CRP).