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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the Western world. Approximately 40% of North Americans die due to cardiovascular disease. However, heart disease is seen as being mostly preventable. There are many factors involved that relate to your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, particularly exercise, diet and stress. However, one underlying factor that relates to the development of cardiovascular problems is the level of inflammation in your body. In this article, I will discuss the role of chronic inflammation on the state of your heart and blood vessels, from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor.

Role of inflammation and effects of chronic inflammation

Inflammation is a natural and important process that allows your body to react and heal from trauma and damage. When you are injured, that body part temporarily swells-up to isolate your immune system in that area to clear up damage and to repair the injured tissues. Unfortunately, more and more people are suffering from a longer, drawn out extent of inflammation that is not short lived, but is rather prolonged or in a chronic state. When inflammation lingers, it is like a slow-burning fire that is not extinguished but keeps going; in time, it may burst back into flames in the surrounding area that can cause significant damage. The same is true of chronic inflammation in your body. Besides swelling, other signs that inflammation is happening in your body are pain and areas of warmth, such as a warm joint. Chronic inflammation is often the common culprit in many chronic age-related diseases, and when it comes to chronic inflammation affecting your heart and blood vessels, other indicator blood tests are useful, particularly ‘hs-CRP’ and ‘homocysteine.

Inflammation and heart and blood vessel health

The hs-CRP test is a sign of inflammation in your body. It can be elevated for a short duration during an infection or trauma, however, if it stays elevated over time, it can be a sign of chronic inflammation that can seriously affect your cardiovascular system and other parts of your body. Homocysteine is another substance your body produces that can directly damage your sensitive blood vessel linings, causing vascular inflammation (inflamed blood vessels), promoting blood clot formation.

How to reduce inflammation in your heart and blood vessels

• Vitamin D

This versatile vitamin has been shown to reduce the level of hs-CRP in your body. A review study looked at 10 separate studies and concluded that supplemental vitamin D reduces the level of hs-CRP in people with elevated hs-CRP. The study was published in the June 2014 issue of the journal Nutrients.

• Turmeric extract (curcumin)

This yellowish spice is common in Asian cuisine. It has significant anti-inflammatory effects and recently has been shown to reduce the risk of atherosclerotic plaque development. In a six-month study in diabetic patients, researchers from Thailand found that turmeric extract significantly reduced the risk of developing atherosclerosis (plaque formation within arteries) and also improved many aspects of metabolism (improved insulin sensitivity, reduced visceral and total body fat). The study was published in the February 2014 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

• B-vitamins

A study of 390 healthy seniors aged 60-74 tested for the response to b-vitamin supplementation. The supplement consisted of vitamins B6, B12 and B9 (folate) and results were compared to those given only low dose vitamin C. After 12 months of supplementation, the people in the b-vitamin group significantly reduced the indicators of cardiovascular disease risk (the Framingham risk score). The study was published in the June issue of the European Journal of Nutrition. Studies have shown that other b-vitamins may also benefit the cardiovascular system.

• Address lingering chronic infections

If there are lingering infections in the body, then chronic inflammation will continue. Examples of such infections include periodontal disease (dental), chronic hepatitis and those related to a damaged intestinal lining.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.