Most health professionals agree that heart disease is primarily a problem of blocked arteries. However, there are many things which contribute to the development of heart disease and problems such as a heart attacks, angina, cardiac arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. Some factors that have been implicated include:
- coronary inflammation (homocysteine and C-reactive protein),
- cholesterol and other blood fats (although this appears to have been over emphasized),
- blood clotting,
- blood pressure,
- syndrome X (believed to be a product of insulin resistance),
- aerobic capacity,
- smoking and
As well as these there are genetic factors. This is a variable over which we have no control. If you do have a family history of heart disease this does not necessarily mean that you will develop heart disease yourself. There are many factors, besides genetics, that go into the development of heart disease. It is these factors that can be changed and thereby reduce your risk of developing heart disease. One factor that is starting to gain attention is coronary inflammation.
Coronary inflammation is the response of the body to minute fissures that occur in the arteries as a part of their moving in response to the heart beat – the heart beats more than 100,000 times per day and the wear and tear injuries can cause inflammation. There are a number of things that can add to arterial injuries such as, smoking, stress and genetic factors.
The homocysteine level in the blood is one way to check on the inflammation levels. Homocysteine (referred to as the H factor) is a chemical (a sulfur-containing amino acid) found in our blood. It is a product of the metabolism of protein in our bodies. Evidence suggests that homocysteine may promote atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in blood vessels) by:
- damaging the inner lining of arteries,
- interference with clotting factors, and
- the breakdown of low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
Blood for measuring homocysteine levels is drawn after a 12-hour fast. Levels between 5 and 15 micromoles per liter (µmol/L) are considered normal. Abnormal concentrations are classified as moderate (16-30), intermediate (31-100), and severe (greater than 100 µmol/L).
Homocysteine levels in the blood are strongly influenced by diet, as well as by genetic factors. The dietary components with the greatest effects are folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.
Folic acid and other B vitamins help break down homocysteine in the body. Several studies have found that higher blood levels of the B group vitamins are related, at least partly, to lower concentrations of homocysteine.
C-Reactive protein is produced by the liver and present in the blood when there is acute artery inflammation. It has been suggested that the risk of a heart attack begins to rise when the C-Reactive protein levels in the blood rise.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine the following is a risk guideline for C-Reactive protein (milligrams of C-Reactive protein in one deciliter (dl) of blood).
less than 0.70 – lowest risk
0.70 to 1.1 – low risk
1.2 to 1. 9 – average risk
2.0 to 3.8 – higher risk
3.9 to 15.0 – highest risk
Testing for C-Reactive protein levels may be appropriate if you have multiple cardiac risk factors present, you have the signs of early heart disease or you have a strong family history of heart disease.
If your homocysteine and C-Reactive protein levels are not what they should be then you need to take action – so that you don’t become another heart disease statistic.
If you smoke you need to stop.This quit smoking program can assist you to stop smoking for good.
You need to work on improving your diet and this can include taking quality, non-contaminated heart and circulatory system vitamins and minerals.
You need to cleanse your body, including your arteries, of toxic material so that everything, including your circulatory system, is able to work effectively.
You also need to manage your stress levels and get plenty of exercise. If you have heart disease you need to check with your health professionals that exercise is safe for you.
If you are at risk of developing heart disease don’t leave it until it is too late – take action now and enjoy an improvement in your overall health as well as the health of your heart and circulatory system.
Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.
Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.
Lagrand, W. et al. 1999, C-Reactive Protein as a Cardiovascular Risk Factor. Circulation. July 1999.
Pistcatella, J.C. and Frankin, B.A. 2003, Take a Load off Your Heart. Workman.
Saxelby, C. 2001, Nutrition for the Healthy Heart. Hardie Grant.
Schnyder, G. and others. 2002, Homocysteine-lowering Therapy with Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin B6 on Clinical Outcome after Percutaneous Coronary Intervention. The Swiss Heart Study: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 288:973-979.
Tanne, D. and others. 2003. Prospective Study of Serum Homocysteine and Risk of Ischemic Stroke Among Patients with Pre-existing Coronary Heart Disease. Stroke 34:632-636.
Verhoef, P. and others. 1997. Plasma total Homocysteine, B Vitamins, and Risk of Coronary Atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology17:989-995.