The link between inflammation and heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke is well documented. In this important health area information is great, but action is vital for disease prevention. So, what should you be aware of regarding inflammation reduction as illness prevention?
CRP is a protein the body produces in response to inflammation and is a good predictor of heart attack risk. Doctors can measure overall level of inflammation by checking CRP levels with a blood test. But there’s no need to wait for the blood test to ensure that you’re protecting your heart.
To get a good handle on inflammation, we must examine what causes it. Smoking, long known to cause heart disease, causes inflammation. The other most obvious causes of inflammation are injury and illness.
Bacterial infections like UTI (urinary tract infections,) sinus infections, abscessed teeth, infected ingrown toenails, periodontal disease and a host of others will raise the inflammation and CRP level. One study showed that people who came into emergency rooms with acute heart attack had significantly more UTI’s on admittance than their non-acute heart patient counterparts. (Sims 2004)
Obesity has also been linked to risk of heart attack, but why? In 2005, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston demonstrated that fat cells actually produce two chemicals which in turn raise CRP. One of the chemicals, cytokines, is part of the body’s immune response and causes inflammation directly; the other is called resistin. Resistin is linked to insulin resistance and adult onset diabetes and it directly stimulates CRP production.
Different types of dietary fats are variously linked with raising inflammation levels and lowering them. Fats which increase inflammation, thereby increasing risk of heart attack are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats.) In addition to causing inflammation, trans fats also have a negative impact on overall blood lipids (cholesterol levels) associated with heart disease. (J. Nutr. 135:562-566, March 2005) Poly-unsaturated fats like olive oil actually act as an anti-inflammatory. (Nature 2005; 437:45-6)
Excessive alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, causes the highest alcohol-related increase in CRP levels. Moderate drinkers have the lowest, while non-drinkers register slightly higher inflammation. The moral of the story here is that it’s good to drink in moderation, with heavy emphasis on ‘moderation.’ (Circulation 2004)
Inactivity leads to inflammation, or more accurately, exercise reduces inflammation. (Ulrich 2004) What’s most interesting about the results of this study is that 45 minutes of moderate exercise daily reduced CRP levels by 20%, even in obese people. An interesting contra-indicator was revealed that the exercise as an inflammation reducer was not apparent in men who were taking statins. (DNASCO Study 2004)
Some autoimmune diseases like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and lupus erythematosis cause increased inflammation and corresponding CRP levels.
One last lifestyle cause of inflammation is lack of sufficient sleep. Even one night’s skimping directly causes inflammation. (UCLA 2006)