Increasingly, attention has been focused on inflammation as a driving force in the process of heart disease. Two separate studies recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine report that plasma C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for systemic inflammation, is a strong predictor of heart attack and stroke. In one study, men with the highest CRP values had three times the incidence of myocardial infarction and two times the incidence of ischemic stroke. Significantly, these relationships remained steady over long periods, and were independent of other lipid and non-lipid factors, including smoking.* Another analysis evaluated biomarkers of inflammation in over 28,000 healthy postmenopausal women and found that C-reactive protein was the most predictive marker for future cardiac events such as heart attacks. Women with the highest CRP levels had a greater than fourfold risk of experiencing a cardiac event compared to those with the lowest levels.**
* Ridker PM, Cushman M, Stampher MJ, Tracy RP, Hennekens CH. Inflammation, aspirin, and the risk of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy men. N Engl J Med 1997;336(14):973-9.
** Ridker PM, Hennekens CH, Buring JE, Rifai N. C-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation in the prediction of cardiovascular disease in women. New Engl J Med 2000 ; 342 (12): 836-43.