Inflammation has become a bit of a buzzword in the medical field because it has been linked to so many different diseases. And one of those diseases is heart disease… the same heart disease that cholesterol is often blamed for.
What does cholesterol have to do with it all? Let’s first consider the role of inflammation in your body. In many respects, inflammation is a good thing as it is your body’s natural response to invaders, whose presence it perceives as threats. If you get a cut for instance, the process of inflammation is what allows you to heal.
- Your blood vessels constrict to keep you from bleeding to death
- Your blood becomes thicker so it can clot
- Your immune system sends cells and chemicals to fight viruses, bacteria and other “bad guys” that could infect the area
- Cells multiply to repair the damage
Ultimately, the cut is healed and a protective scar may form over the area. If your arteries are damaged, a very similar process occurs inside of your body, except that a “scar” in your artery is known as a
plaque. This plaque – along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your blood vessels that normally occur during the inflammatory process – can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks. Notice, however, even though cholesterol takes the sole blame for this plaque production, that it has yet to even enter the picture.
Cholesterol’s vital role in this process is to come in after plaque formation and replace those cells which were damaged during the inflammatory response. Remember that no cell can form without it. To accomplish this, signals from damaged tissue notify the liver to make more cholesterol and release it into the bloodstream, where it will then travel to the damage sites and begin repairs. This is a deliberate process that takes place in order for your body to produce new, healthy cells and while shuttling away dead, damaged cells for removal.
Unfortunately, as both the Standard American Diet and stressful lifestyle have become the norm rather than the exception, our bodies are losing the ability to fully repair themselves before the next onslaught of physical or mental abuse. Consequently, the body will be in a dangerous state of chronic inflammation.
As you can see, cholesterol level reflects chronic inflammation in your body; the more inflammation you have, the higher your total cholesterol tends to be. Your body makes cholesterol to “patch up damages” from this ongoing inflammation.
The way to determine if you have chronic inflammation is with a C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test. CRP level is used as a marker of inflammation in your arteries. The levels of CRP used to determine your risk for cardiovascular disease are,
- A CRP level under 1 milligrams per liter of blood means you have a low risk for cardiovascular disease
- 1 to 3 milligrams means your risk is intermediate
- More than 3 milligrams is high risk
Even conventional medicine is warming up to the idea that chronic inflammation can trigger heart attacks, yet it stops short of seeing the big picture. In the eyes of conventional medicine, when increased cholesterol is seen circulating in the bloodstream, the conclusion is that IT (cholesterol) — not the underlying damage to your arteries — is the cause of heart attacks.
Which brings us to the very important topic in next week’s edition:
The Insanity of the Cholesterol-Lowering Craze