How does low-level inflammation affect my health?

Even if you don’t often think about it, you’re likely pretty familiar with the effects of inflammation on your body. At the very least, you know what the symptoms of inflammation feel like – giving you swollen, stiff joints, aches and pains, or flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, headaches, or low energy levels.

Inflammation is basically your body’s warning system, where your white blood cells let you know that an intruder (like viruses or bacteria) are present in your body. When you’re sick, injured, or infected, your body is on high alert to help remove the intruder and get your health back on track.

But there’s another kind of chronic inflammation that can lurk in your body – and you may not know it’s there until it’s spent years smoldering inside you. You deserve to understand what kind of inflammation is wreaking havoc on your health so you can take action. Find out why low-level inflammation matters, and how you can tackle what’s lurking just beneath the surface.


What is hs-CRP?

High-sensitivity C-reactive protein, or hs-CRP, is a biomarker that measures low-level inflammation in your body. You might have heard of C-reactive protein testing, another test that measures significant inflammation in your body. But how is hs-CRP testing different?

Think of inflammation like a campfire. When inflammation causes those nasty symptoms mentioned above, it’s the equivalent to when flames are high and throwing lots of light and heat around your campsite. It’s pretty hard to ignore a fire when that’s happening!

But hs-CRP is much more subtle. Because it’s a lower level of inflammation, the effects are so small that you can barely notice – like the smoldering embers that burn slowly in your fire pit. Even if you can’t see the metaphorical “flame”, that low-level inflammation is still happening in your body. Over time, that inflammation can take a toll on your joints, veins, arteries, and other systems in your body, and can contribute to chronic diseases and health problems like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression, and anxiety.

Why is it important to know my hs-CRP levels?

While you might not be conscious of how your hs-CRP levels are connected to your health, research done in studies like the JUPITER Trial have established why hs-CRP testing is important for you.

Back in 2003, a massive study known as the JUPITER Trial began. Involving 1315 physicians in 26 countries and studying 17,802 people, this trial sought to see how the use of statins, a medication typically used to lower blood cholesterol levels, could help prevent cardiovascular events in people who had low LDL cholesterol levels but high hs-CRP levels. For context, low levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol is a good thing, but high hs-CRP levels are bad.

In a preliminary article, researchers noted that almost half of all cardiovascular events happened in men and women with normal or low LDL cholesterol levels, along with noting that hs-CRP levels were a “strong, independent predictor of future vascular events.” [1]

The trial was initially planned to last four years, but was stopped after just 2 years due to the evidence of a clear benefit. In the end, the study found that people who took statins had hs-CRP levels that were lowered by 37 percent, along with LDL cholesterol levels that were lowered by 50 percent. [2]

So why does this matter when we’re talking about hs-CRP? The JUPITER Trial was one of the first major studies to use hs-CRP as a way to screen people who may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular problems or events. This study also highlighted the potential for hs-CRP to be used for future screening to help identify and treat people in earlier stages of low-level inflammation.

Do I need to test my hs-CRP levels?

The JUPITER trial primarily focused on heart health, but hs-CRP testing is for everyone! While hs-CRP is a biomarker that’s also included in our advanced and premium heart health tests, everyone can benefit from knowing more about low-level inflammation in their bodies.

Testing regularly can help you establish a benchmark for where you are before making lifestyle changes or taking medication. Once you know your levels and discuss them with your healthcare provider, this at-home inflammation test can help you measure your progress to see if your adjustments are making an impact.


How can I combat inflammation in my body?

There are a few easy ways you can combat low-level inflammation in your body:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day.
  • Eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables (like kale, spinach, or collard greens), nuts, fatty fish (like salmon or tuna), and fruits (such as berries, oranges, or cherries).
  • Avoid inflammatory foods such as fried or fast food, soda or sweetened beverages, processed, refined carbs, fats like margarine, shortening, or lard, and processed meats.

It’s important to note that underlying health conditions can also cause low-level inflammation, so make sure you discuss any changes with your healthcare provider first.

Low-level inflammation could be smoldering within – but you can take action and get the answers you need to put out the fire!

[1] Ridker, Paul M. “Rosuvastatin in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease among Patients with Low Levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Elevated High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein.” Circulation, vol. 108, no. 19, 11 Nov. 2003, pp. 2292–2297., doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000100688.17280.e6.
[2] Ridker, Paul M. “The JUPITER Trial: Results, Controversies, and Implications for Prevention.” Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, vol. 2, no. 3, 1 May 2009, pp. 279–285., doi:10.1161/circoutcomes.109.868299.