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How Much CRP Level is Dangerous?

May 10, 2024 • read

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How Much CRP Level is Dangerous?

CRP (C-reactive protein) is a protein your liver produces when your body has inflammation. It can be elevated by a range of conditions, like pregnancy, the flu, or other infections, and in some cases, certain types of cancer.

Your doctor may suggest a CRP test because the results can help them diagnose conditions, monitor them, assess your risk of developing heart disease, and examine the effectiveness of treatment for some inflammatory conditions.

What are CRP levels?

CRP levels can vary with age, sex, and race, and rise at varying levels due to a number of issues. Each lab may have a different range for what is considered normal. The reference ranges are just a guide. Your healthcare provider will see your results based on age, health, and other factors. Here’s what different CRP levels can indicate about your health: 

  • A normal CRP level is less than 0.3 mg/dL, which is seen in most healthy adults. 
  • A CRP level with normal or minor elevation means levels are between 0.3 mg/dl and 1.0 mg/dl, often seen in people with a cold or a chronic condition like diabetes, or are pregnant or sedentary. 
  • A CRP level with moderate elevation means levels are between 1.0 mg/dl and 10.0 mg/dl, which can be caused by systemic inflammation from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, some cancers, or heart disease.
  • A CRP level with marked elevation means levels are above 10 mg/dl and can indicate infections or major traumas. 
  • A CRP level with severe elevation means levels are above 50.0 mg/dl, and could signal an acute or chronic condition. Most of the time, a bacterial infection is responsible for high CRP levels, but in some cases, severe elevation can signal cancer.

There’s also a test for hs-CRP, which doctors use to evaluate a person’s risk of developing heart conditions. Here’s what different hs-CRP levels can reveal about your health: 

  • An hs-CRP level less than 2 mg/l indicates a lower risk of a heart condition 
  • An hs-CRP level greater than 2 mg/l indicates a higher risk of a heart condition

What factors cause CRP levels to elevate?

Many factors contribute to elevated levels, including:

  • Your lifestyle: People who smoke, are obese, or are sedentary may have higher CRP levels.
  • Acute conditions: Minor injuries and infections can raise CRP levels temporarily.
  • Chronic conditions: Conditions that trigger ongoing constant inflammation, including autoimmune diseases, can be the reason for increased levels.
  • Hormones: Estrogen-based medications like birth control pills can raise CRP levels.
  • Pregnancy: As an acute condition, pregnancy can raise CRP levels, particularly during the later trimesters.

How do I interpret my CRP test results?

As mentioned, a normal CRP level in a healthy person is less than 0.3 mg/dl. People with certain conditions can have levels that are as high as 50.0 mg/dl or more, which is concerning. High CRP levels are associated with serious health conditions, like bacterial infections. For example, pneumonia can lead to potentially life-threatening complications for people in high-risk groups. 

Studies show that healthy individuals with elevated CRP levels are at an increased risk of different types of cancer. And people with certain cancers who have elevated CRP levels tend to be linked to a poorer prognosis. But, treatment options can help lower your CRP (which we’ll get to below).

What are the health implications of high CRP levels?

High CRP levels can mean you’re at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (and therefore heart attacks), inflammatory conditions, and other chronic illnesses. These levels can also be a sign of serious conditions like bacterial infections or cancer.

If you’re concerned about your CRP level, talk to your primary care doctor about coming up with a plan to help lower them. Looking for a more convenient option? Consider seeking virtual care for immediate advice. At Maple, we have a range of primary care providers, like doctors and nurse practitioners, as well as specialists who can help highlight the best interventions for your specific needs to help get your CRP level to a safer, healthier state. 

Managing and Lowering CRP Levels 

The best way to lower your CRP level is the same as what you’d do to lower your vascular risk—by tweaking your lifestyle habits. Specifically, try to:

  • Increase your exercise: Walk, run, and/or cycle to get your heart rate up.
  • Improve your diet: Eat heart-healthy foods including healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and anti-inflammatory foods like salmon. Also, avoid unhealthy and processed food. 
  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Find ways to soothe distressing thoughts and feelings, such as through meditation, journaling, or talk therapy.
  • Quit smoking: Cigarettes are linked to the development of inflammatory diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity causes your body to experience a state of chronic low-grade inflammation.

Your doctor may also recommend taking a Statin, which is a drug that helps reduce cardiovascular risk, thereby lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Studies show Statins can reduce CRP levels by up to 50%.

But it’s important to note that lowering your CRP level isn’t a guaranteed way to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease or other conditions. Talk to your doctor to determine the preventative care options for you.

Symptoms of High CRP Levels

CRP is a sign of an inflammatory process happening in your body. Elevated CRP levels can be associated with different symptoms. People with moderately high CRP levels can experience:

  • Unexplained exhaustion or weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Body pain
  • Muscle soreness and weakness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia

People with severely elevated CRP levels often have an acute infection with symptoms, including:

  • A high fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Uncontrollable sweating or chills
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rash or hives
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Intense headaches and body aches
  • Loss of consciousness

But some people with high CRP levels may experience few or no symptoms. This is often the case in the early stages of heart disease.

Consulting with Healthcare Professionals 

Based on your symptoms and risks, your doctor may refer you to a specialist who can monitor your CRP levels. Rheumatologists can diagnose and treat conditions that impact your joints, muscles, and bones and help manage inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis

Cardiologists can examine your heart health and create a treatment plan with lifestyle changes and possibly medication that can treat your underlying heart conditions and help lower CRP levels. Infectious disease specialists can identify and treat illnesses caused by infection that increase CRP levels.

To ensure you get the right treatment, it’s important to have effective communication with your primary healthcare provider (like a family doctor), be open about your symptoms and family history of diseases, and be diligent about scheduling regular check-ups and follow-ups so your doctor can keep an eye on your health.

If you’re looking for a more convenient way to receive a personalized plan for lowering your CRP levels, consider scheduling a call with one of our experts. In addition to primary care providers like doctors and nurse practitioners, we have specialists like registered dietitians who can create a healthy food plan for you, weight management experts to help get you to a healthy weight and maintain it, and psychiatrists and psychotherapists who can help you reduce your stress levels and anxiety, all of which can play a role in lowering your CRP.

Information presented here is for educational purposes, and not to replace the advice from your medical professional. Virtual care is not meant for medical emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency like chest pain or difficulties breathing, for example, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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