Inflammation and Heart Health

Summer was the busiest and best season for Ken, the owner of a small-engine repair shop. But Ken’s long hours and hectic schedule were interrupted—permanently. At age 46, overweight and a smoker, Ken’s first symptom of heart trouble was his last—he fell victim to a sudden, fatal heart attack. Ken had been sure he was fine.  He had never had chest pain or shortness of breath.

Ken’s story is not uncommon. Although heart attacks occur when arteries become narrowed by cholesterol, this occurs less than 30 percent of the time. Instead, most heart attacks and many strokes originate from small but unstable fatty deposits in arteries called plaques. When they rupture, they release deadly compounds that can produce life-threatening clots.

Although arteries have often been compared to ordinary plumbing pipes, these vessels are much more complex than simple pipes. Arteries are living tissues that contain powerful chemicals involved in immune function, inflammation, clotting, and more.

The most common disease of these living tissues is atherosclerosis, once called “hardening of the arteries.” But it actually involves more than “hardening” (sclerosis). Atherosclerosis also involves a “mushy,” fat component. In fact, the process begins when fats (such as cholesterol) move from the blood into the lining of the blood vessels. These fatty deposits are a part of an inflammation process which causes a greater risk for heart attack and stroke.

When working correctly, acute (short-term) inflammation causes the body’s immune system to heal when injuries have occurred.  But chronic (long-term) over-activation of the immune system can cause serious problems. Such is the case in diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. It is also true in atherosclerosis.

Inflammation literally means “on fire.” Indeed, scientists now realize chronic inflammation is a major—if not the major—culprit in coronary artery disease. It underlies not only the creation of fatty plaques but also their growth and rupture.

Is there anything we can do to dampen the fires of inflammation in our bodies? Fortunately for our arteries, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Lifestyle choices can have a major effect on the inflammation process involved in heart disease.

God speaks of the heart as more than an organ that pumps blood. The Bible uses the heart to represent the springboard of our actions and the seat of our emotions. “Give me your heart, and let your eyes take delight in my ways.” Proverbs 23:26. Would you allow Jesus Christ—the God of all healing, comfort, and love— to help you form new habits and renew your inner life? You can start today—one choice at a time—and gain more optimal health while “losing” needless suffering!

(Submitted by Betty Dean. Used by Permission from Courtesy of LifeSpring – Resources for Hope and Healing, Stuart, VA.)



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