You've most likely heard about the key health numbers that the Know Your Number campaigns have encouraged us to monitor. Increasing public awareness about high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high body mass index (BMI) has been a cornerstone of the public health effort to combat heart disease.
There is another number that is less well-known, but that can also be an important measure of heart disease risk, as well as risk for other chronic diseases. This measure is a lab test called C-reactive protein (CRP), and it is a general marker of inflammation. While there are many lab tests that measure inflammation, CRP is the one that is most widely used and available.
Strong evidence has linked higher CRP with risk for heart disease, as well as other chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and neurological diseases.
Higher C-reactive protein levels in people with neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are associated with shorter survival times.
Inflammation isn't just related to chronic age-related diseases, a recent study found it to be related to migraines in young women too.
There are two kinds of C-reactive protein tests - a regular test and a high-sensitivity test. Your health care provider will know which one is appropriate for you to use. If you have an infection or a chronic inflammatory condition like arthritis or an autoimmune disease, a C-reactive protein is expected to be higher, so it is not helpful to measure it in these cases. If your CRP is 3 mg/L is considered higher risk.
Here are seven complementary and lifestyle approaches that have been shown to reduce C-reactive protein and other signs of inflammation:
- Acupuncture - Recent studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can reduce CRP in people who have had a stroke or who are obese.
- Mind-Body Activities - Various research studies have linked Meditation, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga with lower CRP.
- Increase your fruits and veggies — Increased fruit and vegetable intake has been linked to lower CRP. LifeVantage Corporation (for which I am a distributor) also offers a plant-based supplement (Protandim Nrf2 Synergizer) that is patented for its ability to reduce C-reactive protein.
- Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake — Studies have found that smoking and excessive alcohol use raise CRP levels.
- Exercise — While CRP is raised immediately after exercise, numerous studies have demonstrated that people with regular exercise and higher leisure activity tend to have lower CRP levels.
- Maintain a healthy BMI and waist circumference — Higher CRP is linked to increased BMI and increased waist circumference. This makes sense because we know that fat cells can stimulate inflammation in the body.Mind your microbiome — Probiotic use has been linked to lower CRP. For more information about how to maintain a healthy microbiome, see my blog: 5 Ways to Mind Your Microbiome.
What about you? Have you ever had your CRP measured? If you've found natural ways to lower it, please share your experience with us in the comments below!