C-Reactive protein, a sensitive marker of inflammation, predicts future risk of coronary heart disease in initially healthy middle-aged men: Results from the MONICA (Monitoring Trends and Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease) Augsburg Cohort Study, 1984 to 1992.
BACKGROUND: Inflammatory reactions in coronary plaques play an important role in the pathogenesis of acute atherothrombotic events; inflammation elsewhere is also associated with both atherogenesis generally and its thrombotic complications. Recent studies indicate that systemic markers of inflammation can identify subjects at high risk of coronary events. METHODS AND RESULTS: We used a sensitive immunoradiometric assay to examine the association of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) with the incidence of first major coronary heart disease (CHD) event in 936 men 45 to 64 years of age. The subjects, who were sampled at random from the general population, participated in the first MONICA Augsburg survey (1984 to 1985) and were followed for 8 years. There was a positive and statistically significant unadjusted relationship, which was linear on the log-hazards scale, between CRP values and the incidence of CHD events (n=53). The hazard rate ratio (HRR) of CHD events associated with a 1-SD increase in log-CRP level was 1.67 (95% CI, 1.29 to 2. 17). After adjustment for age, the HRR was 1.60 (95% CI, 1.23 to 2. 08). Adjusting further for smoking behavior, the only variable selected from a variety of potential confounders by a forward stepping process with a 5% change in the relative risk of CRP as the selection criterion, yielded an HRR of 1.50 (95% CI, 1.14 to 1.97). CONCLUSIONS: These results confirm the prognostic relevance of CRP, a sensitive systemic marker of inflammation, to the risk of CHD in a large, randomly selected cohort of initially healthy middle-aged men. They suggest that low-grade inflammation is involved in pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, especially its thrombo-occlusive complications.