Measuring Your Risk of Heart Disease:
Heart disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Scientists are now saying that 95% of these heart disease related deaths are caused by cellular inflammation. Today’s technology allows us to analyze our level of cardiovascular inflammation and use specific healthy lifestyle interventions to de-inflame our bodily systems.
Inflammation is driven by several different routes in our body. Oxidative stress from excessive free radical formation and/or a deficiency in anti-oxidants is a common mechanism. Increased sympathetic stress response within the body causing catecholamine overload and burnout plays a role in most inflammatory cycles. Finally, improper cell signaling due to excessive pro-inflammatory prostaglandin formation and immunological cytokine reactions is a staple ingredient in the inflammatory soup.
Tests to Analyze Inflammatory Levels:
Three great tests that analyze the risk of inflammation in the coronary arteries include C Reactive Protein, Homocysteine, and Lipoprotein (a).
C Reactive Protein (CRP):
This is a protein found in the blood that rises in response to inflammation. During times of acute infections and resulting inflammatory responses CRP can elevate up to 50 times higher than normal. When the artery walls are inflamed and damaged CRP remains elevated. Even though many causative factors can increase CRP, research has shown that laboratory test level above 2.4 mg/l are at much higher risk of a heart attack compared to levels below 1 mg/l.
An anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle are the critical keys to reducing CRP levels. This begins with a diet rich in phytonutrient dense vegetables, healthy fat and clean protein sources. Healthy fat sources include coconut products, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, & purified omega-3 fish oil supplements. Healthy protein includes wild-caught fish, grass-fed red meat and free range chicken, turkey, and eggs. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, oregano & garlic are also powerful aids.
Homocysteine is an inflammatory amino acid that is produced as a byproduct of protein metabolism. Homocysteine-induced injury to the arterial wall is one of the factors that can initiate the process of atherosclerosis, leading to endothelial dysfunction and eventually to heart attacks and stroke. The amino acid methionine is digested and metabolized into homocysteine. When the body is sufficient in Vitamin B12, B6 & Folic Acid, excess homocysteine is remethylated into methionine or transsulfurated through vitamin B6.
Blood tests that show homocysteine levels above 6.3 umol/L are an indication of methylation deficiencies and elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. Supplementing with Folic Acid, B6, B12, and trimethylglycine have been shown to significantly lower homocysteine levels. Adequate amounts of magnesium, riboflavin (B2), and cellular anti-oxidants are also critical players in homocysteine metabolism.
Lipoprotein (a) Levels:
Lipoprotein (a) is a particular subclass of LDL cholesterol. Lp(a) is very similar in structure to a critical enzyme called plasminogen. Plasminogen helps the body dissolve blood clots. At any one time, our bodies are constantly making and dissolving microscopic blood clots. This dance is very delicate and dependent on a healthy balance of two blood clotting systems.
If Lp(a) competes for binding spots for this blood clot dissolver, the blood system balance may form blood clots. The majority of heart attacks are caused by a blood clot in a heart artery at a site of atherosclerosis. Lp(a) has been shown to stimulate our immune cells to deposit cholesterol into heart artery walls thereby promoting the development of atherosclerosis.
A Lp(a) levels should be under 20 mg/dl and ideally under 14 mg/dl. Several nutritional supplements have been shown to lower Lp(a) naturally. Niacin, liposomal vitamin C, l-lysine, & l-proline are an effective combination for lowering Lp(a) by interacting to reduce oxidative stress and building healthy collagen which is the foundational component for healthy soft tissue.