April 7, 2003 - High blood levels of a substance known as C-reactive protein, or CRP, may increase the risk of stroke by nearly 400%. Researchers found that middle-aged men with the highest CRP levels were almost four times as likely to suffer a stoke.
The study adds to growing evidence that C-reactive protein may be a strong indicator of stroke risk among both men and women. Researchers say it's the longest and most complete look at the relationship between CRP levels and stroke risk.
C-reactive protein indicates the amount of inflammation in the body. And recent studies have shown that inflammation -- which may occur from infection -- may play a key role in heart disease and stroke.
In this study, researchers followed 8,006 men of Japanese decent between the ages of 48 and 70. Over the 20 years of follow-up 259 strokes were reported among these men. Researchers compared these stroke cases with 1,348 similar men who did not have a stroke. All were tested for CRP levels
Researcher David Curb, MD, of the Pacific Health Research Institute and colleagues found that the odds of a stroke increased over time for those with the highest levels of C-reactive protein. And the harmful effects of CRP were most evident in men without risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and in nonsmokers.
Researchers say previous studies show that associations found between C-reactive protein and stroke risk in men are also likely to apply to women.
The researchers say it's still too soon to say whether CRP levels can be used to identify people at risk of a stroke, but this study suggests that the idea warrants consideration.