Inflammation: The Heart Disease Connection

Inflammation: The Heart Disease Connection

Heart disease risk

Think of your health like a bank account:  If you work away, but spend all of your money and never save a dime, you will not feel the impact during your working years. But when you are on the verge of retirement, your decision to not save your money will drastically affect your life.

Just like saving money for retirement, our health is cumulative and we need to save it with smart choices. We typically see people affected by chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes later in life. Though the diagnosis of disease is often made in old age, the processes started earlier in life with chronic inflammation. But no need to fret! There are many steps you can take to live more heart-healthy!



Not all inflammation is created equal. Inflammation is an important physiologic tool to deal with stressors like infections, cuts, trauma, burns, and more.

A good example of acute inflammation is a sprained ankle. There is some level of tissue damage from the inappropriate movement, so your body walls off the damaged area with swelling. Once walled off, local immune cells get to work while messages are sent to the rest of the immune system to take action. Inflammation becomes an issue when it becomes a chronic process.

With heart disease, LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) circulates through the bloodstream. When the LDL are small and dense, they stick to the wall of an artery, and initiate an inflammatory response. Similar to the sprained ankle, inflammation walls off the unhealthy LDL and narrows the artery. This limits the amount of blood flow and can overtime cause serious health problems like heart disease. 

Causes of chronic inflammation include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Over-exercising
  • Smoking
  • Chronic stress
  • Inflammatory foods like dairy and gluten
  • Diets high in Omega 6 fats and low in Omega 3 fats
  • Being overweight—fat cells release inflammatory chemicals
  • Heavy metal exposure

If you're concerned, you can get a blood test to track inflammation as it pertains to heart disease. Just talk to your doctor.

Early signs of chronic inflammation include:

  • Acne
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraines
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Arthritis
  • Plantar fasciitis


Natural Ways of Reducing Inflammation


  • Avoid anything white. This includes white salt, white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and white sugar.
  • These foods cause quick spikes in blood sugar causing the elevations in hazardous by-products circulating through the bloodstream. The immune system reacts in an attempt to clear these by-products. These by-products are linked with premature skin wrinkling, cataracts, diabetes, and heart disease.

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables

  • Eat lots of colorful, fresh foods. The color in our fruits and vegetables are reflective of the food’s antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants serve as scavengers in our tissues searching for harmful inflammatory chemicals.
  • Foods rich in antioxidants include fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, dark chocolate, and red wine in moderation.  Aim for every meal having at least five different colors to ensure maximum antioxidant benefits. These antioxidants are extremely protective against chronic disease!

Reduce consumption conventionally raised meats

  • Conventionally raised livestock live on a diet consisting of mostly grains. The saying “you are what you eat” rings quite true here. The effects of the animal’s carbohydrate-based diet are imparted you as well. This type of animal meats contain 20-30 times more omega-6 inflammatory fatty acids than grass-fed meat.
  • Shop for grass-fed meat! Grass-fed meat has a higher ratio of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3’s include: salmon, walnuts, and fresh-ground flaxseeds.

Fish oil supplements

  • High consumption of fish has become a catch 22 as its health benefits are sometimes outweighed by the heavy metal toxins they may carry.  By having a high quality fish oil supplement, you can maintain the healthy fatty acids you may be missing on a daily basis.
  • Fish oils are high in the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. EPA is particularly indicated for general inflammation while DHA is highly brain specific. DHA is an incredible nutrient to have on board for the prevention of memory loss in adults and healthy brain development in children.

Curcumin from Turmeric

  • Curcumin is a constituent of the spice, turmeric, and is highly researched as a potent antioxidant that fights inflammation. Curcumin reduces inflammatory chemicals to support conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-surgical edema.
  • You may take this in an encapsulated pill form or incorporate turmeric into your day-to-day diet (it's a mild flavor, so you can add it to eggs, grains, or veggies!). If you are targeting a particular condition, the best benefit can be achieved via the encapsulated form.

What do you do to protect your heart's health and avoid inflammation? Tell us in the comments.


- Dr. Thalia Farshchian, Naturopathic Doctor

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.