Volume 3 Issue 2

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Page 37 of 47

Heart attacks and most strokes are triggered when a diseased artery becomes so inflamed that it can no longer contain the plaque smoldering inside the vessel wall. Much like a volcano spewing molten lava, inflammation causes a breach in the vessel wall, leading to the creation of a clot that obstructs blood flow. The blood and urine tests described within check for this fiery process. For cholesterol to build up inside artery walls, there has to be some degree of inflammation. And the more inflamed a diseased vessel becomes, the higher your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Chronic inflammation is most common in people who are overweight or obese, particularly if they are physically inactive or smoke. Even if your weight is normal, however, having an apple-shaped body with a large waistline can also be a warning sign of cardiovascular danger. Stroke Triggers A Hole in Her Heart About 40 percent of people who suffer unexplained strokes – particularly patients under age 55 – have a small hole in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). Everyone has a PFO before birth: This opening between the two upper chambers of the heart allows the fetus's blood to bypass the developing lungs. After birth, the PFO normally closes. In about 25 percent of people, the PFO fails to seal shut. The flap-like opening typically acts like a swinging door, only opening when there's increased pressure in the chest, which can occur when the person coughs, sneezes, or strains during a bowel movement. A PFO makes it possible for a blood clot that forms elsewhere in the body to travel to the brain, where it can block a blood vessel and cause a stroke. A PFO can be diagnosed through imaging tests such as an echocardiogram. Stroke patients who have a hole in their heart are often put on blood-thinning medications to reduce the risk of recurrence, while people with a PFO who haven't had a stroke don't need treatment unless the condition is causing other problems, such as transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke). Abnormal Heartbeats Nearly three million Americans have atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heart arrhythmia. AF occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals make the heart's two upper chambers (atria) contract very rapidly and irregularly (fibrillation). AF is a major risk factor for stroke, making people who have it five times more likely to suffer a stroke than those without it. That's because the irregular beat allows blood to pool in the atria, boosting the danger that a clot will form and then be carried to the brain. How Inflamed Are Your Arteries? Page 38 | Abby's Magazine -

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