Middle-aged men with higher blood levels of C-reactive protein (pictured), a measure of inflammation, are at increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the future.

You already know that high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking, are major risk factors for heart disease. But science shows there’s another factor that could impact your heart health.

Research conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) over the past 20 years suggests that inflammation also may contribute to heart disease risk.

Inflammation can occur as a part of the immune response, our bodies’ attempt to fight off and attack foreign substances, such as infectious diseases. Inflammation also may occur in response to the buildup of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) inside the walls of arteries, potentially leading to the formation of harmful blood clots.

In 1997, researchers led by Dr. Paul Ridker, Director of the BWH Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, discovered that middle-aged men with higher blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of inflammation, were at increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the future.

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