Moon-walker Neil Armstrong, who recently passed away at the age of 82 following heart bypass surgery, skyrocketed our knowledge of outer space. It’s too bad that insights into the role of C-reactive protein in heart disease couldn’t alert him to the dangers of inner space (his clogged arteries). These days, if you know your CRP level, you can take steps to cool down body-wide, blood-vessel-damaging inflammation that triggers heart attacks and many other ailments.
CRP is cranked out by the liver when your immune system, hormones and serum proteins respond to an injury or irritation somewhere in your body. Inflammation follows. What causes those injuries and irritations? Pick one: inactivity, obesity, smoking, chronic stress, periodontal disease, acute (a cold) or chronic (an ulcer) infection, autoimmune diseases and a diet loaded with saturated fats and processed foods.
A blood test can determine your CRP levels: A reading of less than 1 mg/L says you have a low risk for heart disease; up to 2.9 mg indicates an intermediate risk; 3 mg or more puts you at high risk.
What should you do if you have elevated CRP?
--Get active. Exercise lowers CRP and quells inflammation; your RealAge can be four years younger.
--Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day; abnormally high CRP levels may drop 25 percent.
--Opt for a Mediterranean diet loaded with the odd omega’s -- olive oil (omega-9), nuts (some have omega-7), salmon (omega-3), seeds, fruits and vegetables -- with very little saturated fats and no trans fats; CRP may fall by 20 percent. Add high fiber (100 percent whole grains and beans). You’ll cut your risk of having high CRP levels by 63 percent.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.