The New Heart Disease Threat

“The evidence has gotten much stronger that a substance known as C-reactive protein may be every bit as important as cholesterol in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Back in 2002, a thought-provoking study found that a blood test for C-reactive protein, called CRP, was actually better than the standard cholesterol test at predicting the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Now two studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine have shown that drugs that reduce the levels of that protein in patients with severe heart disease can slow the progression of atherosclerosis and prevent heart attacks and cardiac-related deaths.

Although the studies came laced with caveats, their cumulative impact suggests that cardiology is in the midst of a revolutionary shift in understanding the causes of heart disease. After years of focusing on the role of cholesterol in clogging arteries, researchers now recognize C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation in artery walls and elsewhere, as a prime risk factor in its own right.” (New York Times )