Did you know that heart disease and osteoporosis are closely linked — to such an extent that it’s been suggested that those with heart disease should be screened for osteoporosis and vice versa? According to emerging science, the two conditions are tied together by one major factor . . . inflammation.
So that’s why, for Heart Health Month, we're highlighting one simple blood test that’s capable of detecting runaway inflammation and its related antioxidant deficit — the C-reactive protein (CRP) test. In fact, some authorities suggest that the high-sensitivity CRP test could predict the risk of developing serious heart disease (and other chronic illnesses) years in advance. (1, 2)
What is C-reactive protein?
C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced in the liver in response to inflammation; its job in the body is to attach itself to phosphocholine (a chemical produced by both microbes and cells that are dying) to “flag” the unwanted cells for the immune system to remove.
If there’s an actual infection or injury present, inflammation and the resulting high CRP aren’t such a bad thing — you want your immune system to be activated so it can find and eliminate bacteria or dead and injured tissue. But in heart disease and other chronic illnesses, the high level of CRP signals continual inflammation that doesn’t go away.
Data on the connection between inflammation and heart disease goes as far back as a 2004 Time Magazine cover story that alerted the public to the link. That was when elevated CRP was first understood for its role in the development of chronic inflammation. (3) High CRP was linked not only to heart disease, but also to diabetes, stroke, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and many other serious, long-term illnesses.
Lowering elevated CRP levels
Now that we know elevated CRP is a red flag for both your bones and your cardiovascular health, what can we do about it? Happily, we have several recommendations:
- Eat an alkaline diet focused on whole foods and filled with colorful fruits, berries, veggies, nuts, and seeds — and dark chocolate. By doing so, you’ll increase your intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, quercetin dihydrate, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, and curcumin, as well as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and important minerals such as magnesium.
- Eliminate sugar, fried and processed foods, and reduce alcohol — all of these encourage inflammation.
- Exercise has been found to lower CRP levels and strengthen bone at the same time. Mindful exercises like tai chi and yoga can be helpful for people just starting out — and they help lower stress levels, which not surprisingly, are also associated with higher CRP and inflammation.
- Rest! Getting insufficient sleep has been shown to increase inflammation and CRP levels. (And no—taking a nap won’t do the trick. You need your eight hours at night.)
We encourage you to learn more about keeping your heart and bones healthy, including the amazing benefits that vitamin K2 offers.
- He, L. P., et al. 2010. Early C-reactive protein in the prediction of long-term outcomes after acute coronary syndromes: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Heart 96(5):339-346.
- Li, Y. W., et al. 2017. Hs-CRP and all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality risk: A meta-analysis. Atherosclerosis 259:75-82.
- Rifai, N. and P. M. Ridker. 2001. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein: A novel and promising marker of coronary heart disease. Clinical Chemistry 47(3):403-411.