The Driving Force Behind Hardening of the Arteries

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

October 25, 2013

  • Is this invisible force destroying your arteries?
  • Simple blood test predicts heart risk
  • No meds required… just natural solutions

Ask most doctors what the biggest risk factor for heart disease is and they will probably say “cholesterol.” But in the last issue of Advanced Natural Wellness we discussed how cholesterol is just one marker for heart disease, and not the best one at that.

Fortunately, scientists and physicians who keep current with advancing medical knowledge are finally realizing something I’ve been telling my patients for years. While unhealthy cholesterol levels do play a role in cardiovascular disease, inflammation may be an even more important risk factor.

You see, it turns out inflammation is a driving force when it comes to hardening of the arteries. And this is bad news for your heart health.

When your arteries lose their flexibility, the lining of your arterial walls can be damaged. And once this happens and endothelial dysfunction takes place, it makes it easier for plaque to accumulate. And this, of course, increases your risk of heart attack, sudden death and stroke.

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Sadly, inflammation often slides under the radar of patients and their doctors.

Many physicians don’t test for it unless a patient shows other risk factors of heart disease. And this can be a costly mistake – for both your health and your pocketbook.

When you consider the cost of a heart attack, testing for inflammation is pretty inexpensive. And it’s not invasive at all. All it requires is a little bit of blood work to test for certain markers.

Here’s what you need to know…

C-Reactive Protein (CRP,) produced by your liver, is one of the best markers for this invisible inflammation. And in recent years, it has also emerged as one of the most powerful predictors of cardiovascular disease and risk of first time heart attack – even when cholesterol levels are normal.

For example, in the Harvard Women’s Health Study, results of the CRP test were more accurate than cholesterol levels in predicting coronary problems. Women with the highest CRP levels were more than four times as likely to have died from coronary disease, or suffered a nonfatal heart attack or stroke.

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Another study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that men with the highest levels of CRP were three times more likely to suffer a heart attack.

But that’s not the end of it. High CRP levels have also been liked to diabetes and increased odds of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

You can find out how much inflammation you have by asking your doctor measure your CRP levels. The gold standard is the high-sensitivity form of the test (hs-CRP).

Here’s what hs-CRP levels mean for heart disease:

  • Low risk = less than 1.0 milligram per liter
  • Average risk = 1.0 to 3.0 milligrams per liter
  • High risk = more than 3.0 milligrams per liter

If your CRP measures below 3 mg/L (milligrams per liter) it’s considered a safe level. However, 3 and greater indicates risk and calls for additional testing and treatment.

Thankfully, there are several things you can do to lower your CRP levels.

I’ve often wondered if so many doctors fail to test CRP levels because they just aren’t sure what to do about it. After all, there is no drug or “procedure” to cure it.

On the other hand, there are natural ways to reduce CRP and fight off inflammation. And once you try them, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel – both physically and mentally. And you will be protecting your heart at the same time.

You can lower CRP naturally if you…

  • Lose weight. Obesity is associated with low-grade inflammation. So it’s no big surprise that people who are overweight or obese have higher CRP levels than those who are normal weight. It’s believed that the larger fat cells excrete more of a chemical called interlukin-6 (IL-6.) This, in turn, triggers the liver to produce more CRP. Belly fat, in particular, appears to have a large effect on increasing CRP levels. And you can reduce CRP levels by losing weight.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. People with poor quality sleep have higher levels of CRP than people who sleep well. Both the quality and duration of sleep appear to play a role in higher levels of inflammation.
  • Enjoy an occasional treat of dark chocolate. Good news for chocolate lovers! In an on-going Italian study those who consumed 20 grams of dark chocolate every three days had significantly lower CRP concentrations than those who ate lower or higher amounts. 20 grams is equivalent to .70 ounces, so it’s a small treat a couple of times a week.
  • Take a magnesium supplement. In recent years we’ve discovered that low levels of magnesium are associated with systemic inflammation and CRP levels; the higher your magnesium intake, the lower your CRP. Just take 500 mg. daily.
  • Take your fish oil. We’ve known for years that fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. Take 3-5 grams daily.
  • Add some curcumin to your daily regimen. This natural anti-inflammatory agent – known for over a hundred years – is the active ingredient in turmeric. It can be used as a spice or taken in supplement form. I recommend at least 500-1000 mgm. daily.

In addition to CRP, there’s another marker that’s equally important when it comes to inflammation. I’ll tell you all about it in the next issue, so stay tuned.

References
Buckley DI, et al. C-reactive protein as a risk factor for coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analyses for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 2009;151:483–495.

Ridker PM, et al. C-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation in the prediction of cardiovascular disease in women. N Engl J Med. 2000;342:836–843.

McIlroy SP, et al. Moderately elevated plasma homocysteine, methylenetetrahydro-folate reductase genotype, and risk for stroke, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer disease in Northern Ireland. Stroke. 2002;33:2351-2356.

Alanna Morris, et al. Abstract 17806: Sleep Quality and Duration are Associated with Higher Levels of Inflammatory Biomarkers: the META-Health Study. Circulation 122: A17806

Vohnout B, et al. Regular consumption of dark chocolate is associated with low serum concentrations of C-reactive protein in a healthy Italian population. J Nutr. 2008; 138: 1939–1945

King DE, et al. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):166-71

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