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Inflammation and Heart Disease

When you hear the word “inflammation” chances are you don’t associate it with anything positive. In truth, at times inflammation can be a good thing.

When people are wounded or develop an infection, inflammation helps fight off germs and aids the healing process.

However, inflammation becomes a bad thing, when it persists, irritating blood vessels, promoting the growth of plaque and potentially the loosening of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to blood clots, the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.

Besides leading to heart disease, inflammation can cause many other chronic diseases, including cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Many things can cause the bad form of inflammation, but one that we may not think about is the role of added sugar. Medical research is starting to show a strong correlation between added sugar (not natural sugar that occurs in dairy and fruit) and inflammation.  Want to learn more about the science behind the research:

So what steps can you take to limit the potentially damaging effects of inflammation? The following are some lifestyle changes we can all make today to help reduce the risk of inflammation and also potentially reduce your blood pressure, bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They include:

Read labels for added sugar in your diet and try to stay under 24 grams if you are a woman, and 36 grams if you are a man. You may be surprised at what contains high levels of sugar! A single slice of bread can have 5 grams or more.

  • Don’t smoke, vape or chew.  If you need help quitting, visit Mercy’s BecomeAnEx program at or attend a series of classes and join a group at the Community Cancer Center.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Increase physical activity
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables

Chronic inflammation doesn’t produce symptoms — the only way to measure it is with a blood test. Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to lower risk factors.  Your doctor or health provider can help you determine your risk level and what next steps are most appropriate for you.

At Shaw Heart and Vascular Center, Douglas County residents have access to a regional center for heart care excellence. Staffed by nine heart specialists with access to high-tech diagnostic and treatment technology, they provide comprehensive expertise and resources for the prevention and management of heart-related conditions – all right here at home.

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