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Chronic Inflammation: Heart Disease and Strokes

While most people associate inflammation with the swelling and redness you get with an external injury, chronic inflammation can have serious internal effects for your body and health. Inflammation has been linked to blood clots, which in turn can contribute to heart disease and strokes. 

But why does inflammation cause heart disease, and what can we do to prevent it?

 

Can inflammation cause heart disease or strokes?

Chronic inflammation is linked to cardiovascular (heart) disease and strokes. Things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking can all lead to fatty deposits sitting in the arteries around the heart. This can narrow the arteries, increasing the chances of blocking them to a level that can cause a severe – and sometimes devastating – impact.

While research is still ongoing to determine the exact role inflammation plays in developing heart disease and other serious conditions, the link is clear. Inflammation can contribute to plaque build up, which in turn leads the body’s immune system to attack it, potentially leading to blockages in the arteries. Arteries leading to the brain being blocked can cause a stroke, while heart artery blockages can lead to heart attacks and heart failure.

What are the common symptoms of heart disease?

Some of the common signs and symptoms of heart disease can include:

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Chest pain
Chest discomfort
Chest tightness
Chest pressure
Shortness of breath

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Pain in the jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

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Extreme fatigue
Nausea

Weakness or numbness in the limbs

Symptoms of cardiovascular illness can differ from person to person. For example, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, fatigue and nausea, while men are more likely to suffer from the more widely recognised symptom of chest pain. Many people, however, don’t have noticeable symptoms and may not know they are suffering from heart disease.

What are the common symptoms of a stroke?

The common symptoms of a stroke can be identified using the ‘FAST’ test:

Facial symptoms: the person’s face droops, and they have difficulty smiling

Arm weakness: the person is unable to fully lift their arms

Speech: the person is unable to speak clearly, and may slur their words or have trouble understanding

Time: a person exhibiting these symptoms should immediately be taken to A&E for urgent treatment

Other common stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset memory loss or confusion
  • Dizziness or a sudden fall
  • Difficulty constructing full sentences
  • Blurred vision or sight problems 
  • A sudden, serious headache
  • Numbness on one side of the body – affecting legs, hands or feet

Of course, many people may not know they are at risk of suffering a stroke before it actually happens. This is why it’s so important to be aware of chronic inflammation and reduce the risk as much as possible.

How to prevent heart disease or strokes by reducing inflammation

Though inflammation can occur for natural reasons, there are lots of ways to reduce it healthily. Undertaking an anti-inflammatory diet and making other lifestyle changes can help. Some ways to reduce inflammation include:

Change your eating habits

Incorporating more leafy greens (like spinach, lettuce or kale) into your daily diet is a great way to introduce antioxidants and reduce inflammation in your body. Similarly, cutting down on sugary snacks and instead opting for something high in fibre can help maintain your blood sugar levels. 

Recent research suggests that adding more herbs and spices to food can also help reduce inflammation – so consider adding a spoonful of turmeric, ginger or cumin to your next dinner. You might also want to try an anti-inflammatory diet which focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, and might include fish (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids) and whole grains.

Get moving

Fitting in regular exercise is vital for lots of health issues, but taking a walk around the block, cycling to the shops, or trying some stretches while you watch TV can have a big impact on your levels of inflammation. You don’t have to become a gym fanatic to start exercising effectively, either. Just a 20-minute brisk walk or cycle can be enough to reduce levels of inflammation in your body. Reducing weight – particularly eliminating excess fat around the stomach area has also been identified as a key method for limiting inflammation.

Stop hitting the snooze button

While getting enough rest is important for brain function and feeling our best, catching too many Zs can actually have a negative effect on inflammation levels, according to research. The sweet sleep spot is around 7 to 8 hours – any more than that can increase levels of C-reactive protein, a key marker for inflammation. You can check your levels with a CRP Blood Test, and track your CRP measurements down to a safe level, to reduce your risk factor. 

 

To check your levels of inflammation and receive wellness advice from our expert team, take our easy at-home Inflammation (CRP) Test.

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Inflammation (CRP) Test

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