Inflammation Speeds Up Hardening of the Arteries

September 21, 2004

A new European study shows that elevated levels of particular bodily chemicals that cause or indicate blood vessel inflammation actually trigger a rapid worsening of hardening of the arteries. Normally if a person has some hardening of the coronary arteries (the arteries feeding the heart blood and oxygen), they can experience chest pain during physical exertion, unfortunately the doctors are not able to predict how quickly this can progress, increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack. This may be the first study to show that increased levels of particular inflammatory markers can predict how rapidly narrowing of the arteries can progress to a dangerous stage. These chemicals - C-reactive protein, neopterin, MMP-9, and slCAM signify that there is current inflammation in blood vessels, and this predicts the rapidity of the worsening of artery blockage.

Researchers followed 124 patients with coronary artery disease and chest pain for 3 to 12 months. These individuals never had a stroke or heart attack due to their condition. Imaging tests were performed initially and after 3 months, or 12 months to assess the degree of arterial plaque build up. 28% of these individuals had a significant progression of their heart disease. Of these almost half had a 10% reduction in the diameter of their arteries, 25% had a 30% or greater reduction, and almost 20% had a new lesion develop. And about 6% developed a complete blockage of a coronary artery. The four markers were higher in the people with a more rapid progression of the disease. The study appears in the September 21st issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.

There are nutrients that help protect blood vessels and also help decrease inflammatory chemicals in the blood vessel walls. Three of these - Plant Phytosterol Esters, Red Yeast Rice, and Policosanol, also aid cholesterol control, LDL, and other risk factors. A combination of Tocopherols and Tocotrienols as a Complete Vitamin E supplement, especially in conjunction with Coenzyme Q10 aids control of inflammatory markers. Resveratrol, Green Tea, Fish Oil supplying EPA and DHA, Grape Seed extract, Aged Garlic, and the carotenoids Lycopene and Astaxanthin are beneficial for protecting blood vessel walls. GliSODin and L-Carnosine are very protective.