Knoxville (WVLT) -- Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.
More than 70 million Americans live every day with some form of heart disease.
910,000 will die from it this year.
We're covering East Tennessee health with the latest medical research on C-Reactive Protein and why it's no longer considered a marker for heart disease.
The body produces C-Reactive Protein during inflammation.
And, in fact, inflammation, or swelling, of the arteries is a risk factor for heart disease.
As recently as a few years ago, medical researchers believed high levels of C-R-P indicated a higher risk for heart disease.
Now, they say large scale studies indicate C-R-P is a marker for inflammation, in general, and not heart disease, specifically.
ETSU Associate Professor Alok Agrawal, Ph.D says, "Normally, we have very little levels of this protein in our blood, but under inflammatory conditions, if there is an inflammatory disease, the level of this protein goes up."
Inflammation can be caused by conditions such as an infection, illness or even arthritis.
C-R-P can be measured with a simple blood test, which can be done at the same time your cholesterol is checked.
Agrawal says, "If a patient goes to the hospital for testing this protein and the level is up, so it could be anything -- it's not necessarily because of a health problem."
Unless you are at high risk for heart disease, the american heart association doesn't recommend C-R-P testing as a routine screen.
Better indicators of heart disease are elevated cholesterol levels, especially L-D-L, or bad cholesterol, in conjunction with low H-D-L, or good, cholesterol, as well as high blood pressure.
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are effective ways to reduce your risk.