Inflammation and Heart Disease: Understanding the Link

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 15, 2015

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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hsCRP: The Hidden Factor in Heart Disease and Stroke

Posted by Blog Administrator March 2, 2012

Dr. Paul Ridker

Dr. Paul Ridker, Director, BWH Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Your doctor probably gives you a lot of numbers after your check up. Ever wonder which ones you really need to know? When it comes to your cardiovascular health, C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of your most important numbers.

Measured by a blood test known as a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) test, CRP is an indicator of chronic low-level inflammation in the body, which could indicate increased risk for heart attack and stroke. A landmark study by Dr. Paul M. Ridker, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), demonstrated that people with elevated CRP levels and normal LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”) are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, his study, known as the JUPITER trial, showed that the use of statins (cholesterol-reducing medications) among people with elevated CRP levels and normal LDL cholesterol reduced their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events by nearly 50 percent.

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