The Role of Inflammation in Heart Attack and Stroke

Inflammation, a byproduct of the immune system, can lead to systemic inflammation which raises your risk for heart attack and stroke. Learn more about inflammation in this video from Dr. Alan Reisinger.


Hi. I am Dr. Alan Reisinger. Do you ever speak to your doctor about inflammation and how it can impact your health? I hope so. Because inflammation, especially systemic inflammation can really hurt your body, including your heart.

Inflammation is a byproduct of your immune system. It’s a response to an irritant or invader. That invader may be bacteria, a virus or foreign object like a splinter. The immune system’s reaction can cause redness, heat, swelling, pain or loss of function. For example, if you have a virus or cold, you may not be able to smell correctly. This is loss of function. 

Inflammation is a sign of your immune system working. But sometimes, it can cause problems, especially in your cardiovascular system. 

When cholesterol deposits buildup inside your blood vessels, your immune system may recognize this substance as a foreign invader and sends white blood cells to gobble it up. This creates plaque. If the plaque ruptures, it can lead to a blocked artery, which can cause heart attack or stroke.

Unlike the inflammation around a cut or the inflammation from a sore throat, this kind is hard to spot. How does your doctor know if you have inflammation that can affect your heart? There are several tests that can help your doctor determine if you have inflammation you can’t see. 

The most common test looks for a substance called C-reactive protein. This protein increases when there is inflammation in the body. The test doesn’t show the cause of your inflammation, but it’s a helpful test that can help determine your risk for heart disease. 

Another key test is for MPO or myeloperoxidase. MPO is an enzyme that cause vascular inflammation, the kind that can lead to bad cardiovascular events. Too much MPO can indicate increased heart disease risk. This test is often included in your MDVIP Wellness Program bloodwork.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about inflammation. Studies show inflammation is a risk factor in heart disease, even if your cholesterol levels are under control. 

The good news: Inflammation can be managed. A study published in the Journal of International Medical Research demonstrated that your MDVIP-affiliated physician can help you reduce inflammation markers like these once they know about them.

If your inflammation markers are elevated, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, getting the right amount of exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, taking proper care of your teeth and gums, managing stress and getting enough sleep at night. 

There’s also evidence that cholesterol-lowering statins can reduce inflammation. Regardless of the treatment, you can’t address this kind of inflammation unless you know you have it.

Next time you see your doctor, ask them about your risk for heart disease and inflammation.   

Similar Posts
Lower Inflammation to Reduce Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke / Dr. Andrea Klemes / February 14, 2018
Chronic Inflammation: An Invisible Issue / Byron F. Harper III, MD / June 16, 2021

Physician Locator
Enter a full address, city, state, or ZIP code. You can also browse our city directory to find physicians in your area.
Enter Doctor's Name