Many people, including some doctors and holistic health professionals, still think cholesterol is the main cause of coronary artery disease, but they’re wrong. So, you ask, if cholesterol is not the main culprit for the development of coronary artery disease, what is?
Inflammation Plays a Central Role In Coronary Artery Disease
Inflammation is your body’s first line of defense against injury or infection. But inflammation sometimes becomes chronic: it goes into constant overdrive and begins to cause disease instead of heal it. The knowledge that inflammation is a major predictor of coronary artery disease began with a landmark study showing that high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—one of the principal markers of inflammation—increased the risk of developing coronary artery disease.
The Harvard University Women’s Health Study, which involved some 28,000 healthy postmenopausal women, showed that subjects with the highest levels of CRP had five times the risk of developing coronary artery disease and four times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared with subjects with the lowest levels. C-reactive protein predicted risk of these events in women who appeared to have no other pertinent heart risk factors.
In the study, researchers looked at C-reactive protein and LDL cholesterol levels in women who developed coronary artery disease and the results were quite surprising.
Most cardiologists and holistic health professionals would have expected that women with higher levels of LDL cholesterol would have been at the highest risk. But, in this study, not only was elevated C-reactive protein the best indicator of risk, women with high LDL and high C-reactive protein were also at the most risk.
This finding is significant, folks, as this study shows once again that LDL cholesterol levels alone don’t completely determine your risk of coronary artery disease. In fact, this study reported that out of 12 possible risk factors including cholesterol, elevated C-reactive protein was the strongest predictor of future cardiac events for postmenopausal women.
High C-reactive protein levels also predict greater coronary artery disease risk for men. In another study—the large Physicians Health Study—higher levels of C-reactive protein were found to predict risk for heart attack and stroke in men.
According to Dr. Paul Ridker, who led the Women’s Health Study, approximately 25 percent of the US population has elevated C-reactive protein levels, but normal to low HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. This means that millions of Americans may be unaware that they are at increased risk for future cardiovascular problems, even if they are routinely screened for elevated cholesterol.
Now it's your turn: Have you been screened for inflammation?