C-reactive protein (CRP) is a blood marker of inflammation and a hallmark of the acute-phase response. Its elevation bears negative prognostic implications for many conditions and it has also been shown to be a nonspecific predictor of long-term risk of cerebrovascular disease (CVD) in several populations, while elevations of CRP associated with the major acute-phase response following ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke are associated with death and vascular complications. High-sensitivity assays that accurately measure levels of CRP have been proposed for use in risk assessment for CVD and as a prognostic marker after an acute event, although the pathogenic and clinical significance of these associations is controversial. In this article, we critically review the literature in narrative format and describe major epidemiological studies, novel experiments and possible future developments that may inform the debate. In our discussion, we will distinguish the different pathophysiological roles of high circulating CRP concentrations in individuals with acute stroke from the modestly and persistently increased levels of CRP concentration in generally healthy subjects. However, before any clinical application is possible, a critical appraisal of the strengths and deficiencies of the accumulated evidence is required, both to consider the current state of knowledge and to inform the design of future research.