Scott: Doctor, one of the chapters in one of your books, Fantastic Voyage, talks about the real cause of heart disease. Cholesterol has always been the main focus, is that still accurate or is that accurate?
Dr. Terry Grossman: Well, it used to be thought that, this is called the cholesterol hypothesis, but it now appears that at least 40 or 50 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal or low cholesterol levels. So if you were to plot the risk of having a heart attack against your cholesterol level, if cholesterol were the cause, then we would expect the higher your cholesterol, the higher your risk of heart attack, but that's not the case. If you were to plot that, it's actually a scatter gram, there's no correlation whatsoever. So, yes, having a very high cholesterol level probably will increase your risk, but there's a lot of other that are things going on. And one of the big ones is inflammation. And that's what we talk about in the books.
If you can keep the inflammation in your body down, the chance of you having a heart attack is much lower. We're also becoming much more sophisticated in our understanding of the lining of the inside of the arteries, what's referred to as the endothelium. And now we have new tests that can measure the health of our endothelia, the cells that line the arteries. And there are certain specific things we can do, tests we can do to find out if we're at risk. And then take some lifestyle changes, supplements and things like that to address that problem and then reduce our chance of developing a heart attack, almost to zero.
Scott: So you mentioned inflammation and keeping that down. How does somebody know where their level might be and if that's something they need to do?
Grossman: Well, there are several tests that are available, common blood tests. The gold standard is referred to as a high sensitivity CRP, c-reactive protein. That's just a simple blood test, not very expensive. Can be done by any doctor. And that test, if its elevated, will suggest there is increased inflammation in the body. So if you do that and you find out that your CRP level is high, then you definitely want to take steps to lower that because high CRP equals high, or increased risk of heart disease.
Scott: And what can people do to lower inflammation?
Grossman: Well, number one is find out where it's coming from. So for instance, one of the sources of inflammation that far too many people have is dental, gingivitis, the gum infections. So seeing the dentist regularly and treating gingivitis, periodontal disease is critically important, things along those lines. And then there's anti inflammatories. We know, for instance that curry, eating curry, has turmeric in it. Turmeric has a compound called curcumin in it which has profound anti inflammatories. People who eat curry regularly, have a lower incidence of cancer, have a lower incidence of Alzheimer's Disease, lower incidence of heart disease. So there are things that we can do with our lifestyle if we find we have inflammation, that we can take these natural anti inflammatories to reduce.
Could there be a connection between seeing your dentist and helping prevent a heart attack? Dr. Terry Grossman says there is a connection. Find out how your dentist can help you keep inflammation down in your body and how that can have a direct connection to your heart health and the risk of a heart attack. He also talks about what we really know when it comes to any connection between heart health and cholesterol.
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