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21-06-2010 | Stroke | Article

CRP levels predict carotid plaque development in healthy elderly


Free abstract

MedWire News: High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) predict the appearance of new carotid plaques in older patients free of apparent carotid atherosclerosis, research shows.

The finding emerges from an analysis of the 1168 participants, aged an average of 68 years, in the InCHIANTI prospective cohort study. The 486 people included in the current analysis had no evidence of carotid atherosclerosis on baseline ultrasound scan.

During the next 3 years, 195 (40%) of these participants developed new carotid artery plaques, report Raffaele Molino-Lova (Don Gnocchi Foundation, Florence, Italy) and co-workers.

The researchers note that this is a high incidence, but say that older age was an independent predictor for new plaques in this cohort.

Together, this “confirms the established notion of the progressive increase of cardiovascular risk with advancing age, that reflects the cumulative nature of atherosclerosis,” they say.

The risk for new plaques increased 5.48 fold, 6.89 old, 8.04 fold, and 9.57 fold for participants aged 65–69, 70–74, 75–79, and 80 plus years, respectively, compared with those younger than 65 years.

Heavy smoking (>20 pack-years) raised the risk for new plaques 1.70 fold, compared with light or no smoking (up to 10 pack-years), and participants with a family history of atherosclerosis had a 1.57-fold increased risk for new plaques relative to those without.

Notably, the vascular risk factors hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and obesity did not predict plaque development, despite being common in the study cohort.

But there was a graded association between CRP levels and risk for new plaques, the researchers report in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease. Participants with high (>3 mg/l) or moderate (1–3 mg/l) CRP levels had 2.23- and 1.91-fold increased risks for development of new plaques, compared with those with low (<1 mg/l) levels.

“Future studies are needed to confirm our results on a broader scale and to verify whether an aggressive medical treatment targeting inflammatory pathways might also effectively prevent the development of new plaques in older persons free from carotid artery lesions and with increased levels of CRP,” concludes the team.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Eleanor McDermid