High sensitivity C-reactive protein predicts the development of new carotid artery plaques in older persons

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Oct;21(10):776-82. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2010.02.003. Epub 2010 May 31.


Background and aim: Previous studies have shown that increased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) predict cardiovascular events, including stroke, myocardial infarction and death from cardiovascular causes. Previous studies have also shown that increased levels of CRP are strong predictors of the progression of pre-existing carotid artery plaques. However, whether CRP is involved in the development of new plaques, that may or may not be associated with clinical events, in subjects with clean carotid arteries has been scarcely investigated.

Methods and results: 486 "InCHIANTI" Study participants (200 men and 286 women, 72% aged 65 years and over) free from carotid artery plaques at baseline, also underwent carotid artery scan three years later. We tested the association of baseline characteristics, cardiovascular risk factors and inflammatory markers with the development of new carotid artery plaques. Older participants were significantly more likely to develop new plaques. Independent of age, the relative risks of developing new plaques associated with heavy smoking and family history of atherosclerosis were 1.7 (95%CI 1.5-1.9) and 1.9 (95%CI 1.2-3.1), respectively. Participants with high (>3 μg/mL) and moderate (≥1 and ≤3 μg/mL) CRP levels had a relative risk of 2.2 (95%CI 1.9-2.6) and 1.9 (95%CI 1.6-2.3) respectively, when compared with subjects with low (<1 μg/mL) CRP levels. Surprisingly, risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia and overweight/obesity were not significant predictors of the development of new carotid artery plaques.

Conclusions: High CRP levels independently predict the development of new plaques in older persons with carotid arteries free from atherosclerotic lesions.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology*
  • Carotid Stenosis / epidemiology
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking


  • C-Reactive Protein