The incidence of heart attacks is still very high in the US despite a standard cholesterol check being a part of most annual wellness visits.
This leaves one to wonder if the standard cholesterol check is telling the whole picture. The short answer, in my opinion, is no. To explain my reasoning for feeling this way I should quickly review what actually causes a heart attack.
Either a cholesterol plaque or a blood clot in the arteries of the heart can cause a heart attack. Both can be initiated by inflammation. If blood is interrupted for a period of time, the heart muscle may die. So inflammation is a pre-cursor to the initiation of both hard plaques and clots in the arteries.
I explain this to my patients as the equivalent of a small grass fire or a sunburn inside the lining of blood vessels. Just as skin will turn red and eventually peel, so does the “skin” inside the blood vessels. This gives the cholesterol easier access to “set up shop”. Causes of inflammation include being overweight, eating sugar or other “junk food” and smoking to name a few.
So the inflammation sets up for plaque formation and clots and increases risk for heart attack. The “inflammation” can be measured by several blood tests, one of which is called HS-CRP. The “knowledge is power” aphorism applies here. I’m sure if someone asked you would be able to tell your cholesterol number. How about your HS-CRP level?
To your health,
Brian E. Lamkin D.O.