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Cholesterol, Inflammation, and Your Heart

September 20th, 2016

Inflammation—not just cholesterol—can predict your risk of heart disease.

For many years, people were told that controlling cholesterol was the key to a healthy heart. We know now that cholesterol is really no guarantee when it comes to heart health. In fact, nearly half of all heart attacks are suffered by individuals with “normal” cholesterol. Other factors are clearly at work.

Inflammation Makes Cholesterol More Dangerous

Recently, researchers have identified inflammation as cholesterol’s partner in crime in causing heart attacks.

Here’s what happens:

When you have “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood, excess cholesterol can seep into the inner walls of your arteries. This triggers an inflammatory response, which actually speeds up the accumulation of cholesterol. The faster cholesterol builds up, the faster it can harden into plaque on the artery wall. When this plaque breaks up, you get heart attacks and strokes.

Measuring Inflammation as a Risk Factor for Heart Attack

While monitoring cholesterol levels is still important for understanding and managing heart attack risk, measuring inflammation can also be helpful, especially for individuals who may have healthy cholesterol levels.

Inflammation can be measured by checking a substance called C-reactive protein, or CRP. This substance is released by cells during the inflammation process.

In a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, researchers found that women who tested with high CRP levels were 2.5 times more likely to have a first heart attack or stroke. When LDL cholesterol levels were used to evaluate the same group, a much lower risk was predicted. The researchers concluded that CRP testing was 40% more effective in predicting risk of heart attack or stroke than LDL cholesterol testing.

Would you like to know what your CRP level is? Just ask us, and we’ll arrange to have it tested for you.

How to Protect Your Heart

When safeguarding heart health, it’s important to address both cholesterol and inflammation. While research has shown that these risk factors can be reduced with medications called statins (which cause numerous side effects), with a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle, most people can prevent the need for such medications.

Most importantly, consider your diet. To reduce LDL cholesterol, reduce your intake of saturated fats. Don’t cut out fats entirely, though—you need healthy fats for vitamin metabolism. You can also add more soluble fiber to your diet to help trap more dietary cholesterol in your digestive tract, and pass it through your body. To reduce inflammation, swap out sugary, processed foods that can incite an inflammatory response in the gut. Opt for anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and veggies that are rich in antioxidants.

Balancing your hormones can also help to control inflammation and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you would like to learn more about the link between hormone balance and your heart health, please contact Renew Youth™ today.

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