Inflammation is a necessary part of the immune system’s response to infection or injury. It leads to the development of redness, heat, and swelling, and if it’s properly controlled by the body, it breaks down damaged tissues and makes way for new, healthy tissue. In a body where prostaglandins are chronically out of balance, inflammation can easily run amok, harming healthy tissues.
Measuring the levels of a substance called C-reactive protein accurately indicates the amount of inflammatory activity going on deep within the body. Several studies involving tens of thousands of people have strongly linked high levels of C-reactive protein—a natural part of the inflammatory response—with increased risk of dying of a heart attack. This connection makes good sense, because the formation of plaques in arteries involves inflammation, and high levels of inflammation have been found to make plaques prone to rupture or pinch off clots that can then clog arteries. It also makes sense because obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and chronic periodontal disease all increase both cardiac risk and C-reactive protein levels. Some experts believe that the effects of statins, aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on heart disease risk have more to do with their effects on inflammation than with their effects on cholesterol or blood clotting. The synthetic estrogens used in conventional HRT also increase C-reactive protein, which may explain why they don’t help prevent heart disease. An article about C-reactive protein in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded, “. . . C-reactive protein level is a stronger predictor of cardiovascular events than the LDL cholesterol level.”
Like other so-called cardiac “risk factors,” high C-reactive protein is more an indicator of heart disease than a cause. To keep inflammation and C-reactive protein under control, balance your prostaglandins, shed excess pounds, and control high blood pressure. Vitamin E and fish oil supplements can help lower C-reactive protein.
Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Free, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health, by Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, Ph. D, & Virginia Hopkins, M.A. Published by McGraw-Hill.