Traditionally, doctors address common risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, including high blood cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking, and family history. But one of the biggest revelations of 21st century medicine is the unveiling of another important cause of heart disease, one that may lurk in the body unseen and unfelt, yet increases the risk of dropping dead from a heart attack or stroke: inflammation.
Inflammation is a primeval force that evolved with benevolent intent, striving to protect the body against pathogens, poisons and traumas—all of which ancient humans routinely succumbed to. It can be grasped by the naked eye. Slam your knee onto the edge of a table with enough force, for example, and redness, heat, pain and swelling—the four cardinal signs of inflammation—inevitably ensue, as blood flow quickens and vessels dilate, allowing fluid and protein to leak out into tissues. Inflammation works to handle and to eventually heal the wound.