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Inflammation Causes Heart Disease

Source: CNN.Com/health

The most powerful trigger of heart attacks

Study: Inflammation twice as bad as cholesterol

Thursday, November 14, 2002 Posted: 9.27 AM EST (1427 GMT)

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) – Despite their seemingly healthy cholesterol levels, new research shows many people are at high risk of heart attacks because of painless inflammation in the bloodstream.

The inflammation comes from many sources and triggers heart attacks by weakening the walls of blood vessels, making fatty build-ups burst. A large study published Thursday concludes that inflammation is twice as likely as high cholesterol to trigger heart attacks.

Over the past five years, research by Dr. Paul Ridker of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital has built the case for the “inflammation hypothesis.” With his latest study, many believe the evidence is overwhelming that inflammation is a central factor in cardiovascular disease, by far the world’s biggest killer.

"I don’t think it’s a hypothesis anymore. It’s proven," said Dr. Eric Topol, chief of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.

Inflammation can be measured with a test that checks for C-reactive protein, or CRP, a chemical necessary for fighting injury and infection.

What is inflammation?

"Inflammation" is the process by which the body responds to injury, and it can affect the blood vessels that feed the heart.

Doctors now believe the condition often begins when the fatty build-ups that line the blood vessels become inflamed as white blood cells invade in a misguided defence attempt. Fat cells are also known to turn out these inflammatory proteins. Other possible triggers include high blood pressure, smoking and lingering infections such as chronic gum disease.

Ridker’s latest study is based on an eight-year follow-up of 27,939 volunteers in the Women’s Health Study. About half of the heart attacks and strokes occurred in those with seemingly safe levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol.

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