Nearly one million Americans will die of heart disease this year; 2,400 will die each day of cardiovascular disease, an average of one death every 36 seconds.
Risk factors include a family history of premature coronary artery disease, tobacco smoking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and most famously, elevated cholesterol levels.
What is not generally known is that as many as 50% of first heart attack victims have a normal level of cholesterol. So it is clear that there are factors other than total cholesterol involved.
Important but lesser known risk factors are inflammation, infections, diet, and lifestyle.
An easily obtained blood test called C reactive protein (CRP) is a marker for inflammation in a person's body and is an important risk factor for heart disease. Inflammation can come from infections, diets rich in saturated fats and sugar, toxins such as lead and mercury, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The degree of inflammation in your body is at least as important as your cholesterol level.
A typical American diet rich in saturated fats and high sugar foods, as well as tobacco use, obesity, and insulin resistance, can cause the CRP to be elevated.
Chronic hidden infections in the body can also raise the CRP level. Infections which have been linked to cardiovascular disease include periodontal gum disease, respiratory infections, stomach infections (H Pylori) and even urinary tract infections.
Beyond the typical statin drugs offered, there are safe, natural and very effective approaches to lowering cardiovascular risk. These include dietary modification I favor either the Mediterranean or Paleo diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are great at reducing inflammation and correcting abnormal cholesterol profiles. Other important tools are exercise, treating chronic infections, and aspirin therapy.
Natural agents like Niacin (vitamin B3), Pantethine (vitamin B5), and plant sterols can be used to effectively reduce cholesterol and inflammation. Even pomegranate juice has been shown to lower cholesterol. As well magnesium can be used to reduce blood vessel spasm and blood pressure.
Recent evidence suggests using hormone replacement around onset of menopause may reduce development of coronary artery disease in women. This is important given that heart attack risk for women begins to rise after menopause to meet that of men. Testosterone replacement in men may help reduce cardiovascular risk
For many people, lifestyle and nutritional interventions can substantially reduce cardiovascular risk even without the use of more aggressive pharmacological treatments. Though cholesterol lowering drugs can be life saving there are other safe and effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease.