Inflammation: at the core of heart disease

Don’t settle for “the inevitable.”

Knowledge is Power – take charge of your heart health. Any and all of your unwanted symptoms reflect imbalances, injury, your body stuck on trying to heal.

heart disease - healthy heartThere are only two options:

  1. A lifetime of medications to correct high blood pressure, blood sugar imbalances, dysfunctional thyroid and/or adrenal glands… or…
  2. Well-designed, evidence-based guidance that corrects underlying imbalances, calms inflammation, and helps you make important, non-fad, lifestyle changes.

Redness, swelling, pain, fever… traditionally, we define inflammation as the main response the body invokes to deal with injuries or infection. The next stage, healing and repairing, does not start until the “clean-up crew” is done. This communication is a series of orchestrated signals, hormones and other chemicals released from platelets and white blood cells, by your liver and fat cells…

…that’s right: adipose—your fat organ—releases hormones.1

Having a robust, if at times overly sensitive, immune response is considered beneficial. That is, until it keeps on going… The heat, fever and fatigue you see or feel when you get a cut, bite, or minor infection is fine for 24-hours; the pain of a swollen joint (as in arthritis), or chronic fatigue, or getting sick too often… or high blood pressure, even stroke… —all consequences of prolonged or chronic inflammation—are not beneficial and no fun.

It is hard to spend a day without hearing that excess body fat can lead to a host of diseases. We’ve more than heard the effects of being overweight and its link to heart disease. Sadly, the overstocked shelves of weight loss and health books miss the mark. We’ve all been told to avoid saturated fats, eggs and peruse the grocery aisles grabbing appealing boxes marked “heart healthy” but which may be contributing to the very heart disease we want to avoid.

Not only is that wrong, backwards, and probably why more than a billion adults worldwide are overweight, the true culprit—uncontrolled chronic inflammation—is rarely discussed.

Let’s have that discussion.

I felt I was on the path to stroke and diabetes but didn’t quite know what to do about it. I knew I needed to lower my cholesterol and glycemic levels, but wanted to avoid medications and their problems.

Phyllis is so nurturing; she guided me to discover for myself how nutrition could work to achieve my health goals. My blood tests are so much more improved and I’m making much healthier choices. I’ve discovered that healthy foods can be delicious. I’m no longer crave sugary snacks and in fact have no problem resisting them. Overall I feel so much better about myself.

I highly recommend Phyllis to anyone who wants to develop a more healthy way of living or anyone who fears the harm of high blood sugar or is concerned with cholesterol levels, stroke, or diabetes.

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement! –Alice Haley

Albuquerque, NM

Inflammation is at the core of heart disease

The actual and main problem behind the beginning of the end of that little fist-sized muscle that beats over 100 thousand times each day delivering oxygen-rich blood through 60 thousand miles of blood vessels to your 100 trillion cells is more likely lack of healthy fats and other factors that are leading to chronic inflammation.

What does blood pressure have to do with being overweight?

With each additional excess pound of body fat, there is increased risk of high blood pressure; veins and arteries become more rigid, micro-blood vessels (microcapillaries—especially in the legs and in eyes) wear out three times faster in overweight individuals.

What does heart disease have to do with being overweight?

Landmark research published in a 2004 and replicated in later studies of both men and women shows that immune cells of obese people are different than those with healthy body mass index (BMI)2.

What does being overweight have to do with inflammation?

Everything is connected to everything. A few more details:

Over the eons and across the entire animal kingdom, the ability to fight off infection has evolved very strong immune responses to fight infection and protect injured parts. Your liver, fat, and immune cells work together—there is dynamic interaction between adipose and liver and immune cells including certain types of white blood cells called macrophageswhose job it is to engulf and remove foreign invaders and your damaged cells.

The plot thickens…

Obesity & Inflammation

from Journal of Leukocyte Biology October 2008 vol. 84 no. 4 882-892

Researchers have shown that fat cells are prime production sites for pro-inflammatory hormones and other messengers like: IL-6, TNF-a and C-reactive protein (CRP levels are a well-known indicator of heart disease). The more adipose a person has, the more they make these compounds that effectively tell the body the adipose has become diseased3.

Because these obesity-released messenger chemicals are the very chemicals the body uses to tell white blood cells where they need to be to fight infection or injury, your white blood cells follow the chemical trail to the source of the problem—in this case, the expanding fat.

Next, your immune cells migrate within adipose and fat and release another set of chemical messengers—hormones that alter pancreatic insulin response and decrease muscle activity. Your CRP goes out the roof, you feel tired… inside your fat, your macrophages are working tirelessly to rid you of unhealthy, damaged cells. They need energy and resources for this work4,5.

Think about it. In order to organize its energy sources to deal with an immune or inflammatory response, your body has to divert nutrients and energy resources to help heal rather than participate in your child’s baseball game. And, as these fat cells expand—whether engulfed by white cells or not—they release fatty acids into your blood. Your blood lipid / cholesterol profile begins to appear “unhealthy” or “at risk.”

In this way, obesity leads to extra production of chemical messengers and macrophage-derived factors which, in turn, leads to a chronic low-grade inflammatory state that has been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes.1,6 At the same time, obesity elevates your blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides).

Cholesterol is not the culprit

Most Western medical practitioners are taught that elevated Low Density Cholesterol levels (LDL-C – the so-called bad kind) are the main cause of heart disease. As the theory goes (yes, this is theory): in Coronary Heart Disease, waxy, cholesterol-containing plaques build up on the walls of arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. The blockage restricts blood flow and starves the heart. These practitioners prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications (usually statins) to people with total cholesterol above 200mg/dL in order to lower cholesterol which will presumably lower their risk of heart disease.

If only it were that simple.

It turns out, since 1985 researchers have known uncontrolled inflammation leads to heart disease.

Your blood cholesterol test is just an indicator that there is underlying chronic inflammation putting you at risk for heart disease.

Check out these facts:

  • More than half of the people who experience heart attacks have LDL cholesterol levels within normal range.
  • And not only that, only 14% of acute coronary events (heart attacks) occur in coronary arteries that are greater than 70% occluded; most of them occur in coronary arteries with less than 50% build-up.7

The “catch-22” of chronic inflammation, obesity, and heart disease

Cholesterol blocked artery, inflammatory foodRemember, inflammation is normally a controlled immune system response that helps heal and repair an injured area. As it pertains to heart disease, inflammation can begin with a small tear or inflamed area in your blood vessel wall. The natural response of your body is to make chemical messengers inviting specialized cells to the scene to fix the injured area. Macrophages help remove the dead and damaged cells, other cells cover the area with a cholesterol-containing plaque much like you’d put a band-aide on your child’s knee. The source of the stress goes away and your blood vessel heals, ideally.

High Density Cholesterol (HDL-C – the “good” cholesterol) appears to help heal in a number of ways including having anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties while providing healing nutrients for the blood vessel itself.

Cholesterol plaque in artery - inflammation

But keep doing inflammatory things, and you keep elevating inflammatory messengers, creating blood vessel micro-tears or inflamed areas. Over time, the cholesterol plaque builds up, causing a narrowing of the arterial space (atherosclerosis).The injured blood vessel wall also makes inflammatory compounds that raise blood pressure (angiotensin) as well as C-reactive protein which promotes chronic inflammation throughout your body. There are also other compounds released that play a role in “hardened arteries.”

Excess inflammation can cause plaque to break free, which may result in the forming of a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Numerous researchers believe that excess inflammation may be the main cause of triggering a heart attack.

A note on certain cholesterol-lowering drugs: while all statin drugs reduce LDL cholesterol production, not all of them have a good track record of reducing heart disease. Therapeutic interventions like nicotinic acid (niacin B3) and a few of the statins appear to lower the levels of inflammatory compounds, but most statins do not.7 Certain statins, but not all, as well as fibrates and nicotinic acid may increase HDL-C.8 But none of these resolve chronic inflammation—and it is unlikely that anything foreign to the body will ever provide an integrated, sytems-wide, restorative approach.

The “ah ha” moment: all stress is inflammatory

Understand your situation:

Ask to have your C-reactive protein (CRP) levels checked. If your test comes back at less than 1.0 mg/L you are at low risk for inflammation. Average risk is between 1.0 to 3.0 mg/L and high risk is above 3.0 mg/L.

Take these six anti-inflammatory steps: The basics

  1. Cook “from scratch” with nourishing ingredients. If it comes in a box or has a label, leave it on the shelf—those added sugars, preservatives, colors and other chemicals are stimulating inflammation in your body.
  2. Cook with with proven-inflammation-reducing herbs such as turmeric, ginger, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, basil and oregano.
  3. Reduce inflammatory fats from seed oils (and shun Crisco or margarine)—these are the pro-inflammatory culprits that become many of the inflammatory hormones. Replace soy, corn, safflower, canola and other high-omega-6 seed oils with avocado, olive, and/or coconut oil; butter from grass-fed cows (grain-fed cows are also high in inflammatory hormones and omega-6 fats—as is their milk and milk products).
  4. Drink plenty of clean spring water—or filtered tap water to help flush out toxic waste Your weight divided in half = the number of ounces of daily water. Definitely skip the fancy, unnatural, pH water machines and the reverse osmosis “lifeless” waters; especially anything in plastics that will leach into the water and contribute to inflammation.
  5. Move more—stretch, yoga, get a craniosacral session all of these stimulate your lymph, one of the ways your body eliminates built up toxic waste.
  6. Get sufficient sleep! 7.5 hours—at night your liver clears out excess hormones, distributes nutrients, and creates balance.

Change your destiny and get healthy, you can do it!


  1. Smitka K, Maresova D. Adipose Tissue as an Endocrine Organ: An Update on Pro-inflammatory and Anti-inflammatory Microenvironment. Prague medical report. 2015;116(2):87-111.
  2. Womack J, Tien PC, Feldman J, et al. Obesity and immune cell counts in women. Metabolism. Jul 2007;56(7):998-1004.
  3. Wellen KE, Hotamisligil GS. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. J Clin Invest. May 2005;115(5):1111-1119.
  4. Hotamisligil GS. Inflammation and metabolic disorders. Nature. Dec 14 2006;444(7121):860-867.
  5. Hotamisligil GS, Erbay E. Nutrient sensing and inflammation in metabolic diseases. Nature reviews. Immunology. Dec 2008;8(12):923-934.
  6. Galic S, Oakhill JS, Steinberg GR. Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ. Mol Cell Endocrinol. Mar 25 2010;316(2):129-139.
  7. Ijem J, Granlie C. More than cholesterol: the complexity of coronary artery disease. South Dakota journal of medicine. Nov 2000;53(11):489-491.
  8. Wierzbicki AS. Have we forgotten the pivotal role of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in atherosclerosis prevention? Curr Med Res Opin. 2005 Feb 2005;21(2):299-306.
Dr. Ed Childers

About Dr. Ed Childers

A 1973 Graduate of the Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr Childers has 40 years of experience practicing Family Osteopathic Medicine; restoring health and well being to families in Albuquerque since 1976. Dr. Childers embraces the philosophy of Osteopathy which was established in the late 19th century by Dr Andrew Taylor Still and best summarized by this quote: "We look at the body in health as meaning perfection and harmony, not in one part, but in the whole." —AT Still, Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy. Treatment of the 'whole person,' the basic philosophy of Osteopathic Medicine, means understanding all body parts and all bodily function as one holistic, integrated unit. When one body part becomes restricted by stress or injury, other systems also become injured leading to illness. Health is the result of the normal condition; the normal alignment; the perfect harmony of physiology. Dr Childers uses the tools of Osteopathic therapy and guided lifestyle changes to restore balance and bring about greater health and vitality. We at Hands On Health Care are committed to assisting as many people as possible find their body's unique perfect balance, gain maximum health and vitality, and enjoy their life and family to the fullest for the rest of their lives.