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J Intern Med. 2002 Oct;252(4):283-94.

Inflammatory bio-markers and cardiovascular risk prediction.

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Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and the Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 900 Commonwealth Avenue East, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Inflammatory processes are now recognized to play a central role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and its complications. Plasma levels of several markers of inflammation have been found to be associated with future cardiovascular risk in a variety of clinical settings. These markers include cell adhesion molecules, cytokines, pro-atherogenic enzymes and C-reactive protein (CRP). Initially thought of as an inactive downstream marker of the inflammatory cascade, emerging evidence suggests that CRP may be directly involved in atherogenesis, and that arterial plaque can produce CRP, independent of traditional hepatic pathways. In addition to being a strong predictor of future cardiovascular risk amongst patients presenting with acute coronary syndromes, numerous studies have found that baseline levels of CRP are associated with risk of future myocardial infarction, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and cardiovascular death amongst apparently healthy populations. The combination of measurement of a marker of inflammation with lipid testing may improve upon risk stratification based on lipid testing alone, and intensification of programmes for exercise, weight loss, and smoking cessation is recommended for those with elevated CRP levels. Further trials are needed to confirm the potential benefits of statins amongst individuals with elevated CRP levels.

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