Cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis) is an inflammatory process. Blockages in the arteries are like little pockets of inflammation. A good way to visualize atherosclerosis is like little “pimples” in the arteries filled with pus. If these “pimples” burst a heart attack or stroke can occur. A good way to measure your inflammation level and your risk of heart attack or stroke is a blood test called C reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a non-fasting blood test. A level less than 1.0 puts you at low risk. 1-3 is considered average risk. Greater than 3.0 is high risk. Interestingly, people with “normal” cholesterol levels but high CRP levels are at increased risk for cardiovascular events. There are several ways to lower your CRP and thus, your risk. Exercise and weight loss are excellent ways to lower CRP. Regular aerobic exercise is a great way to lower your CRP levels. At least 20-30 minutes every other day is the minimum. Aspirin lowers CRP and lowers risk of heart attack and stroke. Statin medications (Lipitor, Crestor, ect.) lower levels of inflammation. Many think statins work more by lowering inflammation levels and less from lowering cholesterol levels. Eating a good diet is important for lowering inflammation. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, help reduce inflammation levels. There is no such thing as eating too many fruits and vegetables! Avoid sugar which is pro-inflammatory. Avoid omega 6 fats (which are found in many oils and baked products) which are pro-inflammatory. Omega 3 fats, on the other hand, are anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 fats are found in fish oil, wild salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts. Make sure your inflammation level is checked and work on lowering it if necessary to reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Always talk with your personal physician before beginning or stopping any medications or supplements.