How to Know If Your Heart Is Really at Risk
For decades, it has been drummed into our brains that high cholesterol — particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — is bad for the heart. But growing evidence suggests that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart attack are fueled by much more than too much cholesterol in the blood. Specifically, inflammation has come to light in recent years as a huge risk factor for heart problems and many other health conditions.
The greatest indicator of chronic internal inflammation is C-reactive protein. The higher the levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, the greater the risk of dangerous inflammation that could lead to heart disease, heart attack, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other health conditions.
With this latest revelation about inflammation’s role in heart disease, it begs the question: What exactly is the greater predictor of heart problems — LDL cholesterol or C-reactive protein levels? Researchers in India sought to find out.
They recruited 100 patients (irrespective of age and sex) who had been diagnosed with having had a heart attack, as well as 100 randomly selected healthy participants as controls.
They drew blood from all of the participants and tested their cholesterol and C-reactive protein levels. LDL cholesterol levels that were greater than or equal to 160 mg/dL and C-reactive protein levels that were greater than 3 mg/L were considered high risk for heart-related problems.
In the control group, LDL readings ranged from 68 to 129 mg/dL, while in the heart patients, LDL readings ranged from 62 to 126 mg/dL. Interestingly, none of the participants in either group had high-risk LDL readings of 160 mg/dL or higher. And the difference in readings between the two groups was not statistically significant.
C-reactive protein levels were much more telling, though. In the control group, C-reactive protein levels ranged from 0.3 to 0.9 mg/L — very low risk. However, the heart patients’ levels ranged from 2 to 5.8 mg/L — significantly higher than the control group. In fact, 82 percent of the heart patients had levels higher than 3 mg/L, which is considered high risk.
Researchers concluded that C-reactive protein is a much better predictor of atherosclerosis and heart attack risk than cholesterol levels.
If you think you may be at risk for heart problems, talk to you doctor about testing your C-reactive protein levels.
Douse Inflammation Naturally
Fortunately, high C-reactive protein levels, and the resulting inflammation, can be reduced naturally with a few key nutritional supplements:
1. Fish oil is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories you can find. It also promotes thinning of the blood. Take 1-2 grams per day. (If you are looking for a high-quality fish oil supplement, click here.)
2. Bromelain is a digestive enzyme from pineapple that reduces inflammation and has antibacterial properties. Take 500 mg per day.
3. Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s easy to use ginger in marinades and other recipes, or you can take a supplement.
4. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and the resulting inflammation. You can get your antioxidants through diet (by eating various fruits and vegetables) or by taking antioxidant vitamins like C and E.
Last, but certainly not least, exercise. The more weight and fat you’re carrying, the higher your C-reactive protein levels become. If you lose the weight, your levels go down.
Datta S, Iqbal Z and Prasad KR. Comparison between serum hsCRP and LDL cholesterol for search of a better predictor for ischemic heart disease. Ind J Clin Biochem. 2011 Apr-Jun;26(2):210–213.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
For tips, tools and strategies to address your most pressing health concerns and make a positive difference in your life, visit Peak Health Advocate.
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Article updated on: July 23rd, 2013