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Cardiovascular Risk Linked to Inflammation

by Dr. William Epperly, Forum Health Bloomingdale

A few years ago I attended an amazing 2-day preceptorship on cardiovascular disease detection and prevention. Have you ever tried drinking from a fire hose? That is what this conference was like!

There were around 40 of us from all around the country gathered together at a downtown New Orleans hotel for almost 20 hours of intense teaching and training on the real underlying causes of cardiovascular disease, how to detect it, and how to minimize all the factors underlying the disease. We learned the most state-of-the art, cutting edge methods of detection by ultrasound imaging and blood-testing including targeted genetic testing, which provides excellent information regarding several aspects of cardiovascular risk and prevention. It was all very evidence-based, and fully approved for the highest level of CME credit by the American Academy of Family Practice.

For years, it has been believed that cholesterol is the big risk factor for heart disease, and the statin drugs are powerful reducers of cholesterol. Well, guess what: statins don’t reduce heart disease by lowering cholesterol, they lower heart disease by lowering INFLAMMATION.

We can think of inflammation as fire, and our new goal in fighting cardiovascular disease is to put out the fire in the arteries. The founders of this method of cardiovascular disease detection and prevention are starting a new science called Arteriology, or the study of arteries and how to keep them healthy.

The goal is to make stroke and heart attack no longer the #1 killers in America.

Many doctors are now ordering other cardiovascular screening tests on their patients besides the fasting lipids and blood sugar. A new test they have been ordering is the hs-CRP, which stands for high sensitivity C-reactive protein. This test is a marker for inflammation because it’s produced by the liver whenever there is inflammation anywhere in the body.

It is as important of a test as is a lipid panel in terms of its predictive ability for cardiac and stroke risk, so it is becoming more and more commonly used. But even an hs-CRP is not enough and the hs-CRP is not specific to vascular inflammation. It can be high if there is ANY inflammation in your body, like an infected tooth or a gout attack.

Now, it turns out that several more inflammation markers have been identified in addition to the hs-CRP, and one of them in particular is quite specific for cardiovascular disease. It’s called the Lp-PLA2 or PLAC test for short which is an FDA-approved test. This is a test that can be monitored every 3 months to see how well a patient’s therapy is working to get them out of risk.

This information just scratches the surface of the new information that is available regarding cardiovascular health. I will be writing more on emerging testing options and related studies; stay tuned!