12 risk factors in the inflammatory chain toward heart disease

12 risk factors in the inflammatory chain toward heart disease

Antioxidants, found in vegetables, grains, beans and fruit, halt the oxidation process that decays LDL particles and causes the immune system to spring into action. The immune system then begins the plaque-formation process and causes inflammation.

Antioxidants, found in vegetables, grains, beans and fruit, halt the oxidation process that decays LDL particles and causes the immune system to spring into action. The immune system then begins the plaque-formation process and causes inflammation.

by Richard M. Fleming, M.D. — 

1. Low antioxidant levels — Antioxidants, found in vegetables, grains, beans and fruit, halt the oxidation process that decays LDL particles and causes the immune system to spring into action. The immune system then begins the plaque-formation process and causes inflammation.

2. Fibrinogen — Fibrinogen is a protein that increases the blood’s tendency to form clots. Levels of fibrinogen increase when you eat diets rich in fats and animal proteins. As fibrinogen levels elevate, the blood forms more clots, and the risk of heart attack increases significantly.

3. Homocysteine — Elevated homocysteine, an amino acid that increases with excess consumption of red meat and other animal protein sources, acts like burning acid on your artery walls, creating injuries throughout the arterial system. Once the artery is wounded, hordes of immune cells descend on the injury, making the vessel highly inflamed. At the same time, homocysteine increases the blood’s tendency to form clots. This combination of a wounded vessel and blood clots are important steps in the creation of heart attacks.

4. Triglycerides — These are tiny globules of fat in your blood. Triglyceride levels become elevated when excess amounts of saturated fats, calories, processed foods and processed sugars are consumed. When this occurs, the blood can become cloudy with fat particles, potentially affecting circulation to all parts of the body, including the heart. This greatly increases the chances of a heart attack.

5. LDL cholesterol — This low-density cholesterol, often termed “bad cholesterol,” is found in saturated fats. It infiltrates and builds up on the walls of arteries and triggers the inflammatory immune reaction that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

6. Lack of exercise — Moderate exercise is crucial to lowering levels of insulin, triglycerides and fibrinogen, all of which are pro-inflammatory substances. Moderate exercise also reduces weight and strengthens the heart, promotes better circulation and reduces the risk of cancer.

7. Excess weight — Excess body weight is associated with an array of other disorders that cause inflammation, such as high cholesterol levels, high triglycerides, imbalanced hormones, low-fiber diet and lack of exercise. Obesity is a major risk factor in heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

8. Cytokines and leukotrienes — Cytokines and leukotrienes are chemicals that help the cells of the immune system communicate as they spring into action. These chemicals also can cause a wide variety of reactions in our system, including inflammation and constriction of blood vessels and arteries.

9. Growth factors — Growth factors, substances that promote cellular growth, regulate the behavior of arteries, elevate fibrinogen levels and trigger inflammatory reactions. Growth factors become elevated when we eat diets rich in red meats, dairy products, poultry and eggs. A diet based on plant foods dramatically lowers growth factors, promotes the opening of blood vessels, including the coronary arteries, and greatly reduces the risk of heart attack.

10. Bacteria — Bacteria are to the immune system what a red cape is to a bull, and cholesterol plaques can be rife with bacteria. Immune cells thus attack cholesterol plaque like a heard of bulls, fueling inflammation, which then fuels the growth of the cholesterol plaque. As the plaque grows and inflammation increases, it can destabilize and rupture. This can create a blood clot, which increases the chance of a heart attack.

11. Complement — Complement, a protein produced by the immune system, kills bacteria by poking holes in the cell membrane. Complement also attacks large and small arteries, often mistaking them for bacteria. The higher the inflammation, the more complement is attracted to the arteries. The more complement is attracted to the arteries, the more holes poked in the artery walls. The more holes, the more inflammation. In order to combat this vicious cycle, overall inflammation must be reduced.

12. Injuries to the arterial wall — Any injury to the artery wall triggers an immune or inflammatory reaction within the artery. Most of those injuries come from levels of LDL cholesterol, homocysteine and complement, but some come from medical procedures themselves. Invasive diagnostic tests and procedures such as angiography and coronary balloon angioplasty can actually promote the growth of the illness rather than ease heart disease or reduce the risk of a heart attack.

 

Richard M. Fleming, M.D., has been involved in the research, investigation and treatment of heart disease and has helped thousands of people from around the world effectively treat their heart disease, cancer and nutrition-related disorders. He has been featured on 20/20, Today, Good Morning America and MSNBC. He is the author of Stop Inflammation Now! A Step-by-Step Plan to Prevent, Treat and Reverse Inflammation — The Leading Cause of Heart Disease and Related Conditions. www.penguin.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 2, April/May 2005.

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