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  • Dr. Eric Carlsen

How Chronic Inflammation Affects the Heart

diagram on white board showing all of the diseases that can be caused by chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation plays a significant role in heart health as it contributes to the development and progression of heart diseases, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, and stroke. Inflammation is a complex biological process that occurs in response to injury, infection, or exposure to harmful substances. When this process persists, it becomes chronic and leads to the damage of heart tissue and blood vessels.

Chronic inflammation leads to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Plaque is composed of fatty deposits, calcium, and other substances that gradually build up inside the arterial walls, causing the arteries to narrow and harden. This reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Another way chronic inflammation contributes to heart disease is by causing oxidative stress, which results from an imbalance between the production of harmful molecules called free radicals and the body's ability to neutralize them. Over time, this oxidative stress can lead to damage to the cells and tissues in the heart and blood vessels, contributing to the development of heart disease.

Chronic inflammation also affects the functioning of the endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels. The endothelium plays a crucial role in regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, and the formation of plaque. Chronic inflammation can cause the endothelium to become less functional, leading to the development of heart disease.

There are several factors that contribute to chronic inflammation, including unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking, stress, and certain medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In addition, genetic factors may also play a role in the development of heart disease due to chronic inflammation. To reduce the risk of heart disease, it is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle and manage any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to chronic inflammation. This includes eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight.

In conclusion, chronic inflammation plays a significant role in heart health, contributing to the development and progression of heart disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and managing any underlying medical conditions can help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall heart health.


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