Understand your hs-CRP Blood Test Results…

This page helps you to understand blood test results for hs-CRP and gives you the reference range to determine if your lab test results mean that you have high, low or normal hs-CRP levels. 

We outline the risk factors associated with raised hs-CRP.

Reference Ranges for hs-CRP:

Measurement unit Metric Optimal Borderline Risk
US Conventional Units mg/dl <=1.9 2-2.9 >=3
Standard International Units mmol/L <=1.9 2-2.9 >=3
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What is hs-CRP

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein produced by the liver. The level of CRP rises when there is inflammation throughout the body. It is one of a group of proteins called “acute phase reactants” that go up in response to inflammation. [14].

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Function of hs-CRP

CRP is secreted by the liver in response to a variety of inflammatory cytokines. Levels of CRP increase very rapidly in response to trauma, inflammation, and infection and decrease just as rapidly with the resolution of the condition. Thus, the measurement of CRP is widely used to monitor various inflammatory states. CRP binds to damaged tissue and its function is felt to be in contributing to the immune system in providing an early defence [15].

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Risk factors associated with hs-CRP

Chronic inflammation, also known as low-grade or systemic inflammation is related to autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and polymyalgia rheumatic, where the body’s immune system mistakenly initiates an inflammatory response even though there’s no apparent inflammation to fight off. Chronic inflammation plays a more obvious role in diseases such as asthma and the inflammatory bowel diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease [16].

It is also thought that high CRP levels in your blood are associated with narrowed coronary arteries. A CRP test can’t tell your doctor where the inflammation is, so it’s possible that a high CRP level could mean there’s inflammation somewhere other than your heart [15].

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Notable variations by demographic group

Variance in hs-CRP is associated with the CRP gene type and is inherited.  However it is estimate that half of the variance in CRP is attributable to lifestyle factors like smoking, diet and exercise, which are all modifiable [17].

Ethnic differences in CRP concentrations have been found in several cross-sectional studies, but the basis for these differences is unclear.  It is thought that variances in risk factors such as body mass index accounts for much of these differences in CRP across ethnicities [17].

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Diet to improve hs-CRP

  • Limit processed foods as they are pro-inflammatory because they tend to be high in unhealthy fats (including saturated and trans fats), added sugars, preservatives and refined carbohydrates.
  • Diets which result in higher blood sugar levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels are linked to higher levels of CRP [17].  Limiting added sugar in the diet can significantly increase HDL cholesterol which lowers inflammation.
  • Refined carbohydrates like bread and pasta are proven to stimulate inflammation and processed carbohydrates are one of the leading causes of escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions.
  • Limiting alcohol can also help to lower inflammation.  The process of breaking alcohol down generates toxins even more harmful than alcohol itself. These by-products damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken the body’s natural defences [24].
  • There are also many foods which have anti-inflammatory properties including colorful fruits and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants.  Fish and other foods which are high in omega 3 are also proven to have an analgesic affect which reduces pain and swelling [25].  Improving the balance of gut bacteria and lowering intestinal permeability can help to lower inflammation in the body and improve physical and mental well-being.  Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut help boost friendly bacteria in the gut, whilst the collagen in bone broth can help to lower intestinal permeability.
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Supplements for hs-CRP

Herbs that have been shown to help lower inflammation in your body include ginger root and turmeric. Other non-herbal dietary supplements — including omega-3 fish oil and antioxidants — are helpful when you don’t get enough of these nutrients in your diet [24].

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Exercise to improve hs-CRP

Physical inactivity and abdominal obesity are both linked to higher levels of inflammation.  Exercise will help to reduce inflammation directly and indirectly by lowering abdominal fat [17]. Exercise should be introduced gradually where CRP is high as exercise will cause a short term inflammatory response.

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Sleep for hs-CRP

Getting adequate sleep is vital to allow the body to recover and lower levels of inflammation.  Sleep deprivation is proven to increase levels of CRP in the blood.