By Roger Kendall, PhD
Smoking, obesity, stress, and high cholesterol are the usual suspects when it comes to factors associated with compromised heart health.
But recent studies show inflammation plays a significant role in the development of heart disease.
A closer look at heart health tightens the link between inflammation and heart conditions, including cardiovascular impairment like atherosclerosis.
The History of High Cholesterol and Heart Health
For decades, the prevailing theory on heart health centered on a few specific factors that were believed to cause atherosclerosis and, inevitably, a heart attack. These factors included smoking, obesity, stress, and high cholesterol. In the 1970s, physicians began prescribing low-fat diets and industry-leading statin drugs to control cholesterol and bring it down to normal levels.
The problem with these low-fat diets is that they were also high in polyunsaturated fatty acids from corn oil and safflower, which are effectively counterproductive in the effort to reduce heart disease because they’re also known to contribute to diabetes, weight gain, and insulin resistance.
Studies now indicate cholesterol is not the biggest culprit when it comes to poor heart health, and they reveal a quantifiable link between inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
Inflammation Is a Natural Defense
If the body undergoes an invasion in the form of poison, bacteria, or virus, the immune system will send out inflammatory markers to isolate and block blood flow to that area of the body. This will stop the spread of the threat and aid in its removal.
Inflammation is a normal response to any form of irritation in the body, but its impact can have net negative effects on heart health.
There are two types of inflammation. Acute inflammation occurs in the joints as a result of arthritis. The second form of inflammation, called silent inflammation, is less obvious but it directly affects your heart health.
Silent inflammation is caused by the inhalation of toxic air from smoking or air pollution and the ingestion of processed foods or heavy metals. These foreign bodies enter the bloodstream, where free radicals cause oxidative stress, breaking down the body’s tissues and causing irritation.
The irritation causes inflammation of the arterial lining, which in turn can lead to the release of soft plaque below the layers of this lining, causing arterial blockage and leading to a heart attack or a stroke. Through this process, physicians have come to realize that it is possible for a seemingly healthy patient to have a major heart attack without any previous indicators of poor heart health.
Inflammation, Cholesterol and Heart Health
While high cholesterol has been disproven as the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, inflammation acts as a means of enhancing the negative effects of cholesterol on the heart. It does so by causing cholesterol to adhere to the sites of soft plaque build-up and helping it to further develop.
As the irritation within the arterial lining develops, inflammation is produced and causes cholesterol build up as it attempts to repair the lesions that caused the irritation in the first place. Throughout this process, the soft plaque developing below the layers of the arterial lining increases to the point of bursting. This, in turn, causes blockage, which leads to a heart attack.
Monitoring and Preventing Inflammation for Heart Health
As with all systems in the human body, there are ways to maintain proper heart health in order to prevent inflammation and cardiovascular disease. These are as simple as regular testing of key markers and enhancing your diet with healthy fats and dietary supplements.
The C-Reactive Protein, a protein molecule that increases when there is increased inflammation in the body, is a key marker to be monitored on a regular basis for cardiovascular health. Other tests used to monitor inflammation in the body include the plaque test, which is an evaluation of a specific enzyme that acts as an indicator of vascular inflammation, and a sedimentation test that monitors inflammation in the bloodstream.
Diet plays an important factor when it comes to inflammation in the body, as does the implementation of dietary supplements designed to maintain a healthy heart. Understanding that everything we eat and breathe, and everything that we are exposed to on a daily basis, all factor into the levels of inflammation in our body is the first step to controlling and maintaining our heart health.
Healthy fats, such as Omega 3 fatty acids, the EPA and the DHA are paramount in terms of maintaining heart health, as are supplements like curcumin, vitamin D, and DMG. A healthy diet inclusive of colorful fruits and vegetables, modest protein, key herbs, and grass-fed butter on occasion instead of olive oil and coconut oil can go a long way to improving your antioxidant defense system.
Inflammation does not affect heart health alone. It works with an impaired immune system to cause irreversible cardiovascular damage. Promoting better metabolism with a controlled diet and detoxification will help build a better state of wellness where heart degeneration is stalled. It takes all systems working in cohesion to produce remarkable results, but the impact of inflammation and heart health is ultimately within your control.