Inflammation and Heart Disease

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Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

A multi-billion-dollar industry has been built around the idea that large, cholesterol-filled inflammation and heart diseaseblockages in the arteries cause heart attacks. That concept is just plain wrong. The reality is that as many as 80 percent of all heart attacks occur when smaller plaques, destabilized by inflammation, rupture and attract a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the heart.

So, while cardiologists are busy placing stents to prop open large blockages or bypassing them altogether with surgery, inflammation—the real culprit in heart disease—continues unimpeded.

Inflammation is the body’s frontline immunological response. Without it, you’d fall prey to each and every infection that came along. But sometimes inflammation turns from friend to foe, and that is precisely what’s going on in coronary artery disease.

This may explain why half of heart attacks occur in individuals with normal cholesterol levels and a quarter occur in people with no risk factors at all. For these clean-living folks—who don’t smoke, and don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes—chronic low-grade inflammation and the resulting damage to arteries may be the culprit.

Get the Red Out

So, how do you reduce inflammation and, by extension, lower your risk of disease? For
starters, reduce your weight to a healthy level. Fat cells are not just a parking lot for excess calories, but are metabolically active, churning out hormones and inflammatory chemicals. Excess body fat, especially in the abdomen, closely correlates with chronic inflammation.

Second, eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and healthy fats from olive oil and cold-water fish. At the same time, reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats and refined carbohydrates. In a study conducted by UCLA researchers, postmenopausal women who followed this type of diet reduced their C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a marker for inflammation, by 45 percent in just two weeks.

Third, exercise. People who exercise regularly have lower CRP levels than sedentary folks. In a JAMA study, middle-aged couch potatoes who took up a walking program (just 30 minutes five times a week) reduced their CRP levels by 35 percent in only six months.

Fourth, take a high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement. In a survey of more than 14,000 Americans, data  revealed that those with the highest blood levels of vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, beta-carotene and other carotenoids had significantly lower levels of CRP than those with the lowest levels.

And, in a six-month study at the Cooper Clinic, taking a high-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement lowered CRP levels 14 to 30 percent, with those with the highest levels experiencing the greatest reductions.

You also need to get serious about your oral health. Plaque that builds up in your gum line and plaque in your arteries are connected. Dental plaque causes gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and as it progresses, your mouth becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that pass into the blood and cause inflammation elsewhere.

People with gum disease invariably have higher CRP levels than those with healthy gums. They also have greater risk of heart attack and stroke. Brush and floss regularly and consider investing in a toothbrush that uses high-frequency vibrations such as Sonicare.

Finally, think about adding natural anti-inflammatory supplements to your daily regimen. Kaprex, an herbal product that contains extracts from hops, rosemary, and olive leaf, was recently shown to significantly lower CRP levels. Fish oil (2,000 mg per day), curcumin (1,400–1,800 mg), and guggulipid (2,000 mg three times a day) also curb inflammation.

Because chronic inflammation adversely affects virtually every organ system in the body, by following this program you will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease as well as Alzheimer’s, cancer, macular degeneration, and other aging-related diseases.
 

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