Why it's important to start talking about inflammation and heart disease


(BPT) - Did you know that cholesterol and inflammation are partners in causing heart attack and stroke? Inflammation is your body's internal fight against harmful conditions, but if it's on overtime, it can cause its own harm. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart disease, you may want to talk to your doctor about the role of cardiovascular inflammation — and what you can do about it.

Because heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.,[1] it's vital for those with risk factors for cardiovascular (CV) disease to learn how they may be able to help prevent a significant cardiac event like a heart attack or stroke from happening to them. A recent study demonstrated that among people already taking cholesterol-lowering statins, residual vascular inflammation strongly predicts future CV events — perhaps even more than high cholesterol.[2]

Data from many peer-reviewed publications confirm that patients at high risk who are already using statins may benefit from additional anti-inflammatory therapy to further reduce their risk of cardiac and stroke events. Until now, there have only been approved therapies to treat high cholesterol risk — which do not address remaining vascular inflammation. Reducing inflammation may be key to further lowering the risk of heart attack, which over 800,000 Americans with CV disease may face this year.[1]

Why inflammation is so crucial

Heart attacks are caused by blocked blood flow to the heart, while strokes are caused by blocked blood flow to the brain. Inflammation plays a critical role in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), a condition where arteries become narrowed and hardened due to buildup of a substance called plaque which can lead to reduced blood flow and blood clots, resulting in heart attacks and strokes.[3] Because of this, people with ASCVD are at high risk for acute cardiovascular events.[4] Inflammation is a partner with high cholesterol in forming plaque, which contributes to the development and progression of ASCVD.[5]

How to reduce CV inflammation

To find out whether inflammation is a risk for you, the first step is getting tested. A simple blood test to determine the level of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), which is a biomarker for inflammation, can be measured in your blood and gives you an idea of your risk of heart disease.

If this test finds that your hs-CRP level is higher than normal, the next step is to reduce it. One treatment option includes low-dose colchicine, 0.5 mg, a once-daily, single oral anti-inflammatory tablet shown to reduce the risk of a major event, including heart attack or stroke.

"Inflammation has been known to cause heart attacks and strokes for years, and low-dose colchicine, 0.5 mg is a major advance in treating people with cardiovascular inflammation," said Philip Nimoityn, M.D., FACC, clinical cardiologist at Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia at Jefferson and attending physician at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. "With the potential to save millions of lives, low-dose colchicine, 0.5 mg, is proven to reduce the risk of cardiac events, including heart attack and stroke, in patients with established cardiovascular disease by 31%."

If you've been diagnosed with ASCVD, or you have multiple risk factors for ASCVD, you may be suffering from untreated CV inflammation. To help reduce this damaging inflammation and lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, ask your doctor about getting tested for hs-CRP, and about new anti-inflammatory treatment options such as low-dose colchicine, 0.5 mg.

Learn more about your risk and steps you can take to support your cardiac health at CVDInflammation.com.

[1] Heart disease facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 15, 2024. Accessed June 20, 2024. https://www.cdc.gov/heart-disease/data-research/facts-stats/index.html.

[2] Ridker PM, Bhatt DL, Pradhan AD, et al. Inflammation and cholesterol as predictors of cardiovascular events among patients receiving statin therapy: a collaborative analysis of three randomised trials. Lancet (London, England). 2023;401(10384):1293-1301. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(23)00215-5

[3] What is atherosclerosis? American Heart Association. Published April 3, 2023. Accessed June 20, 2024. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/atherosclerosis.

[4] Trier van, Marjolein Snaterse, Hageman SHJ, et al. Unexploited potential of risk factor treatment in patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Published online February 9, 2023. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/eurjpc/zwad038

[5] Libby P, Ridker PM, Hansson GK. Progress and challenges in translating the biology of atherosclerosis. Nature. 2011;473(7347):317-25. doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10146