Inflammation serves many important purposes in the body, but at the same time, it can also be detrimental. When we’re sick or injured, acute inflammation is a sign that our body is healing. The inflammation is a result of white blood cells that are moving in to repair the damage. Outwardly you may notice swelling and redness in the general area of an injury.
As beneficial as it can be, doctors have discovered that chronic inflammation can contribute to various health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- Infectious diseases
Sometimes, whether inflammation is good or bad depends on the cause. Inflammation is caused by different sources. The most common causes of inflammation include:
- Infection - bacteria, viruses, etc.
- External injuries
- Chemical or radiation exposure
- Medical conditions
- Chronic diseases
- Poor diet and exercise habits
The last three can be the most problematic because they can cause chronic inflammation. There are also lifestyle choices that can affect inflammation levels. For example, you may be eating foods that increase inflammation. If inflammation is elevated, then simply forgoing those foods could make a positive difference.
But how can you know if your inflammation levels are high?
That information is in your blood. There are certain inflammation markers that can be measured and analyzed just by taking an at-home inflammation test kit.
What Are Inflammation Markers?
An inflammation marker is a metric that can be measured with a blood test by examining the various components in blood. It can also refer to the blood test itself that’s used to measure inflammation.
7 Important Inflammation Markers to Check
What inflammation markers should you test for? It turns out there is one key marker for measuring inflammation as well as a few more markers that are directly and indirectly connected.
DIRECTLY RELATED INFLAMMATION MARKERS
C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
C-reactive protein (CRP) is the #1 indicator of inflammation. It’s produced by the liver when inflammation is present. The level of CRP directly correlates with the level of inflammation in your body at the time of testing.
Measuring this inflammation marker is particularly beneficial for anyone who:
- Is over the age of 40 years old.
- Has a family history of cardiovascular disease.
- Has high cholesterol.
- Has high blood pressure.
Research from Harvard University found that men with high CRP levels were three times more likely to have a heart attack. Taking action to reduce inflammation is shown to reduce this risk, which is why it’s so important to know your CRP level.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
CRP is considered the gold star standard for measuring inflammation because it offers better diagnostic data, but erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is another marker that’s directly related to inflammation. Erythrocytes are red blood cells. ESR is tested by collecting a blood sample then a chemical is added to inhibit clotting. This will cause the red blood cells to separate from the plasma. Analysts can then measure the rate of red blood cell separation in millimeters per hour (mm/hr). The rate is impacted by proteins that latch on to red blood cells and weigh them down.
A high ESR rate suggests an elevated level of inflammation. Doctors consider 0-22 mm/hr to be a normal rate for men and 0-29 mm/hr to be a normal rate for women. It’s important to note that women tend to naturally have higher ESR levels, and your ESR level can increase with age.
Plasma Viscosity (PV)
Another secondary inflammation marker is plasma viscosity. Like ESR, plasma viscosity indicates inflammation levels but it isn’t quite as accurate as CRP. PV is considered to be redundant to ESR testing and is more difficult to perform. For those reasons, PV testing is rarely used and will likely only be measured after CRP and ESR are tested. If you do receive the test, 1.50-1.72 mPA is considered the normal range for adults.
The newest inflammation marker that’s being tested is procalcitonin (PCT). This is more of a diagnostic inflammation marker that is primarily used to detect or rule out bacterial infections. The information from the test can be used to create antibacterial treatment plans, and it’s used in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) to determine if there’s a risk of septic shock or severe sepsis. PCT testing can also indicate if certain autoimmune diseases are causing inflammation.
Unless there’s reason to believe a person has a bacterial infection or underlying health condition, PCT testing isn’t needed.
INDIRECTLY RELATED INFLAMMATION MARKERS
As noted above, people with high cholesterol levels may also have high chronic inflammation that is contributing to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. For that reason, it’s good to measure cholesterol lipids. You’ll want to get a full cholesterol profile that includes total cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides. Because HDL is beneficial and LDL is bad for cardiovascular health, you need to be able to discern between the two to figure out your cholesterol ratio. This is your total cholesterol divided by HDL. A cholesterol ratio of 4 or lower is considered healthy.
If you discover that you have high cholesterol or that your cholesterol ratio is higher than normal, you may want to do an inflammation test if you haven’t already.
GGT is a marker that is used to test a person’s level of oxidative stress. This marker is used to test liver function since elevated GGT suggests the liver isn’t working properly. There are two reasons GGT is good to know in connection to inflammation:
- Inflammation is produced by the liver.
- Improper liver function negatively impacts sleep, which in turn increases inflammation.
Measuring GGT is more about identifying a cause for high inflammation levels. It can also reinforce testing that shows inflammation levels are also high.
Visceral Fat Markers
Visceral fat around organs in the midsection is a physical sign that you may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. It can also be an indicator of chronic inflammation given that chronic inflammation increases visceral adipose tissue (VAT). Therefore, doctors have determined that there’s a direct relationship between systemic inflammation and visceral obesity.
Visceral fat is measured a little differently than other inflammation markers. To measure visceral fat, waist circumference is divided by height. This type of measurement is considered to be a better health predictor compared to body mass index (BMI).
Our at-home 6-in-1 Health Test Kit measures inflammation markers in addition to markers for a number of other health conditions such as oxidative stress and visceral fat that can increase inflammation. Find out how you can personalize your kit to include all the information you need to get inflammation under control!