CRP and LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol that clogs your arteries) levels have a few things in common:
- both can be measured with a simple blood test
- both are markers that can predict the increased risk of developing heart disease
- both can benefit cardiovascular health if their levels are lowered
- both can be lowered through healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising, keeping blood pressure under control, and by certain medications
However, there are some important differences:
You cannot predict your CRP level based on your cholesterol levels, and vice versa. For example, someone with a low cholesterol level may still have a high CRP level. And someone with a low CRP level may still have high cholesterol.
CRP and LDL-C play independent and additive roles in your heart disease risk. "Independent" means that each one contributes separately to your risk. "Additive" means that if both CRP and LDL-C are high, your total risk will be equal to your risk predicted by CRP plus your risk predicted by LDL-C.
CRP is a stronger predictor of heart disease risk than is LDL-C. What does this mean for your level of heart disease risk?
- People with low CRP and low LDL-C have the lowest risk.
- People with low CRP and high LDL-C have a higher risk.
- People with high CRP and low LDL-C have an even higher risk.
- People with high CRP and high LDL-C have the highest risk of all.
About 50% of all heart attacks and strokes affect people who seem healthy and have normal cholesterol levels. CRP testing offers a way to identify some of these individuals so that they can reduce their heart disease risk before they have a heart attack or stroke.
That's why your doctor may recommend testing for both CRP and cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor if you should have your cholesterol or CRP levels tested.
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