Inflammation is a Culprit

Inflammation is a Culprit

The advanced tests are based on studies suggesting that inflammation is a primary culprit in cardiovascular disease. Inflammation is an immune system response to an irritant. As soon as you prick your finger, come in contact with an allergen or catch a cold, your immune system activates, sending an army of white blood cells to fight off “foreign invaders” like bacteria, allergens and viruses. Even injuries like sprained ankles, tennis elbow and tendonitis cause inflammation as white blood cells flood injured areas to remove bacteria that may be present and dead cellular debris. Sometimes inflammation is noticeable, like the redness and swelling that appears in an injured area; this is referred to as acute inflammation. However, chronic inflammation occurs on a deeper, more internal level and is usually invisible, leaving us unaware that an underlying, potentially dangerous health issue, like heart disease, may be brewing. Click here for some simple tips to help you lower your inflammation »

The Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease Link

In the case of cardiovascular disease, many scientists believe that inflammation stems from cholesterol. Elevated levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs or bad cholesterol) can damage the endothelium (cellular lining of blood vessels). This enables the LDLs to enter into the artery and accumulate along the wall. Because cholesterol does not belong on the arterial wall, the body perceives it as a foreign invader and signals the immune system to send white blood cells into the area. When the white blood cells mix with the cholesterol, a plaque is formed that narrows the blood flow and raises the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Our diet can also promote inflammation that can lead to heart disease. For example, eating refined foods like white flour products, sugar-laden foods and drinks, and fried foods can raise blood sugar levels, triggering proteins called cytokines to send inflammatory messages to the immune system. Further, excessive alcohol consumption can raise the level of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body. Click for an overview of the Mediterranean Diet, deemed by experts as the ultimate anti-inflammatory eating plan »

Inflammation is Not the Only Problem

Although a high LDL level is a reliable predictor of heart disease, studies suggest that only half of those who suffer from a heart attack had elevated LDLs. Recent research revealed that LDL particles come in different sizes. Larger particles are relatively harmless, while smaller particles can cause damage as it is easier for them to slide through the endothelium of arteries. Smaller particles also tend to oxidize easier than larger particles. Oxidation occurs when oxygen is metabolized. The process creates a by-product known as free radicals, which steal electrons from other molecules, damaging cells, blood fats and DNA. Oxidation deteriorates our bodies and has been linked with cardiovascular disease, liver conditions and some cancers. Foods high in antioxidants like vitamin C, E and beta-carotene can protect our body and offset some of the damage caused by oxidation and free radicals.

Staying current with standard cardiovascular disease screenings and tests can help you manage your heart health. However, adding advanced tests that can determine your inflammation level, cholesterol particle size and oxidation damage can predict your risk for heart disease more accurately and are more effective with helping you prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Inflammation is Not the Only Problem

Advanced Tests

Your MDVIP-affiliated physician will order tests based on your individual health needs from our proprietary lab panel. Below are just some of the advanced tests available:

• hsCRP – measures the levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of general inflammation in the body due to injury and infection. High levels are a good indicator of heart disease and predictor of future cardiovascular events.

• Advanced Cholesterol Testing: the VAP® Test – measures the cholesterol concentrations in lipoproteins, which are protein particles that shuttle blood fats (lipids) like cholesterol and triglycerides around the body. The cholesterol content and size of various lipoproteins may predict increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

• ApoA1 and ApoB – measures the type and number of apolipoproteins that bind proteins to lipids to form lipoproteins. Apo A1 sits on the surface of high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) and high levels suggest a decreased risk of heart disease just as Apo B sits on the surface of low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol); high levels indicate a higher the risk for heart disease.

• Oxidized LDL (OxLDL) - measures the amount of oxidized bad cholesterol. High levels of OxLDL raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and prediabetes.

• Lp -PLA2 (The PLAC® Test) – measures the accumulation of cholesterol instead of the arteries; a high level indicates a risk for a heart attack or stroke.

• MPO – measures levels of myeloperoxidase, an enzyme secreted by white blood cells that kills harmful bacteria but when elevated in your blood can cause a host of problems. MPO reduces the effectiveness of good cholesterol, which can lead to arterial plaque build-up. It also releases a bleach-like substance that erodes the arterial walls, causing the plaque in the arteries to become unstable and possibly rupture. When a rupture occurs, the body forms a clot to patch the area. However, a clot can impede blood flow, causing a heart attack or stroke. CardioMPO is 95 percent accurate for predicting a heart attack, the need for aggressive treatment or a heart-related death within the next six months.

• CoQ10 – measures the levels of coenzyme Q10, a vitamin-like substance found in every cell that has various functions such as helping cells produce energy, assisting with cellular growth, maintenance and repair, and protecting the heart. CoQ10 also functions as an antioxidant, helping minimize oxidation-related damage. Low levels of CoQ10 suggest low levels of high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) and/or ApoA1 (good apolipoprotein transporter), which raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

• F2 –Isoprostanes (F2 – IsoPs) – measures the levels of oxidation due to the metabolism of arachidonic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid found in foods such as corn, soybean and sunflower oil, and nuts and seeds. Omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for proper brain function, building muscle and normal growth and development. Although a healthy diet balances the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the American diet typically contains between 14 and 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance can cause in omega-6 fatty acids promotes inflammation and can lead to health issues. Besides heart disease, this test can also accurately predict the risk of cancer.

• NT-proBNP – measures the amount of brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), a hormone that when elevated is linked with ventricular dysfunction. BNP rises when the heart is stressed from a lack of blood flow to if the heart wall is over stretched from too much blood volume, which is linked with high blood pressure and endurance training.

• Urinary Microalbumin – measures the amount of albumin, a protein that circulates the blood and is filtered through the kidneys. When the kidneys are damaged, their filtering ability is impaired, leading to albumin in the urine. This is called microalbumin and it is usually a complication of diabetes but also linked with other conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure.

In addition to our lab panel, if your doctor deems it necessary, he or she may order a special ultrasound called a carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) test. Because CIMT is able to diagnose cardiovascular disease at the earliest stage, it is able to help maintain heart health, reverse some previous damage and lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The test measures the thickness of the first two layers of the carotid arteries, which are two large blood vessels in the neck that deliver oxygenated blood to your brain. The thickness of the arterial walls indicates the amount of plaque that has built up in the artery; the thicker the wall, the greater the risk for a heart attack or stroke. The test also prepares a report that compares your results with others of your age and gender to give you an idea of how old your arteries are, regardless of your chronological age.  

Using the results from your annual wellness appointment is probably the most effective method of preventing or controlling cardiovascular disease. This is because the wellness program provides more than just a set of diagnoses; it is actually a launching pad from which you and your MDVIP-affiliated physician can use to develop a personalized wellness plan to help you live a healthier life and prevent/control a host of diseases, including cardiovascular. Click here to continue reading about the recent American Heart Disease/American College of Cardiology heart disease prevention guidelines »