Can Inflammation Predict Heart Disease and Stroke?

by Senior Care Staff on March 12, 2012

Can Inflammation Predict Heart Disease and Stroke?

Groundbreaking research may be able to help predict how likely it is that a person will have heart disease or a stroke in the future. Studies have linked inflammation to the risk of cardiovascular disease because of the association between the release of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and heart disease.

What is C-Reactive Protein (CRP)?

The National Institute of Health explains that CRP is a protein that is released when there is inflammation present in the body. The liver produces the protein and a blood test can be done to find out how much CRP is present in a person’s body.

What is inflammation?

John W. Kimball maintains a website describing in depth how inflammation develops in the body. Inflammation develops as a result of injury to the body. It can often be recognized by swelling and redness at the site of inflammation and may be accompanied by pain. Although inflammation often occurs on the surface of the skin, it can also occur internally.

While inflammation may develop at the site of an injury solely due to trauma, it can also appear as the result of an infection. The purpose of inflammation is to isolate the area that is affected by injury or infection and promote healing.

Inflammation is usually intended to heal the body, but some complications can cause chronic inflammation. One common cause of chronic inflammation is asthma. Similarly, allergies and some autoimmune diseases result in chronic inflammation.

How can CRP indicate an increased risk of heart disease?

The American Heart Association notes that there is research constantly being done concerning the link between heart disease and inflammation. At this point in time, studies have shown that inflammation occurs as a result of plaque in the arteries in the heart. The body is attempting to heal the areas that are affected by plaque buildup in the arteries, but sometimes the area with plaque buildup can rupture. When a rupture occurs, plaque comes into contact with the blood and clots can form. Two common causes of heart attack and stroke are plaque buildup and blood clots.

How are CRP levels in the body tested?

Testing for CRP levels in the body is done via a simple blood test. The patient does not have to do anything special to prepare for the blood test.

If the test indicates that there is an elevated level of CRP in the body, it will be assumed that there is inflammation present in the body. Unfortunately, the blood test is not able to locate the inflammation. Very high levels of CRP are typically associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The patient may be advised to alter diet and lifestyle habits to lower the risk of heart disease. Anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to discover whether the inflammation can be controlled by medication. Because high cholesterol is often associated with the risk of heart disease, a physician may prescribe medication to lower cholesterol.

What kind of studies have been done concerning CRP and heart disease risk?

The Columbia University Medical Center and the Cardiovascular Research Foundation conducted a study that aimed to discover the exact correlation between CRP levels and heart disease.

The study found a strong link between high CRP levels and 30-day and 1-year mortality. The conclusion that was drawn as a result of the study was that CRP levels can be effectively used to determine a patient’s risk of 30-day and 1-year mortality. Depending on the severity of a patient’s condition, steps may be taken to prevent heart attack and stroke.

Can inflammation be prevented?

While inflammation may be controlled after it has already occurred in the body, the best way to lower the risk of heart disease caused by inflammation is to prevent the development of inflammation in the first place. Whole Living magazine outlines crucial steps you can take to avoid dealing with inflammation and the risk of heart disease in the future.

  • Diet: Warding off inflammation starts by altering your diet. Most people do not get enough fiber on a daily basis, which can help reduce the risk of inflammation. Switching from simple carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates and adding fruits and vegetables to the diet will add fiber.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is important, but be careful about beverage choices. Caffeine, sugar and artificial sweeteners do more harm than good. Stick to water for the most part, and choose green tea at least once per day for the antioxidants.
  • Exercise: Staying active is likely the most effective way to avoid inflammation. Even fitting in a 20 minute walk four or five times a week can significantly reduce the risk of inflammation. Exercise also provides a variety of other physical and emotional benefits.
  • Stress: Stress is harmful to the body in many ways, and inflammation may develop as a response to excessive amounts of stress. Taking time to unwind and engaging in personal hobbies are two ways that stress can be kept under control. While everyone experiences stress, it is important to a person’s overall health to learn how to manage daily stress.
  • Sleep: The time a person spends sleeping is when the body works on healing itself. Missing out on crucial sleep keeps the body from repairing the immune system, which can lead to inflammation. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night to stay healthy.

Studies have shown that increased levels of CRP, a protein released when inflammation is present in the body, can indicate whether a person has a high risk of developing heart disease. Efforts to reduce inflammation in the body can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

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