Heart Disease linked to bacterial and viral exposure.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Cardiovascular Disease
Professional Data: Cardiovascular Disease


Cholesterol has received a great deal of press, and medical experts agree that high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. But cholesterol is not an enemy. The body needs cholesterol and manufactures its own supply. Essential for life, cholesterol plays many important roles. Cholesterol, along with other fats, is a key component of cells membranes. The body uses cholesterol as the building material for hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Bile salts, which break the fat we eat into small particles that can be digested, are composed largely of cholesterol. Cholesterol is our friend, something the body requires, in the right places and amounts. Abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to coronary heart disease and other serious conditions, due to build-up of cholesterol-filled plaque in the arteries. Research has shown that abnormalities in the way cholesterol is transported in the blood are the culprits in setting the stage for arteries to become damaged and clogged with plaque. This is the condition known as "atherosclerosis."

Research has found that infections may have a contributing role in the pathogenesis of athersclerosis, and that the number of infections a person has been exposed to may increase the risk for this condition. A new study published in the journal Circulation included over 570 patients. The severity of the atherscelosis in these individuals was assessed by coronary angiography, carotid duplex sonography, and the ankle-arm index. The antibodies for herpes, Epstein-Barr, H. influenze, and H. pylori among others, were also measured in each of the patients. After various factors had been adjusted, the results exhibited that in those with advanced athersclerosis, elevated antibodies were present for H. pylori, C. Pneumoniae, and herpes simplex virus 2. The individuals were categorized into groups depending on the amount of infections they had experienced in their lifetimes. After a follow up over 3 years later, the researchers found that there was an increased mortality rate due to athersclerosis in individuals who had higher rates of infections, compared to those who had experienced fewer infections. The authors concluded that, "We showed a significant association between infectious burden and the extent of atherosclerosis. Moreover, the risk for future death was increased by the number of infectious pathogens, especially in patients with advanced atherosclerosis."1


1. Espinola-Klein C, et al. Impact of Infectious Burden on Extent and Long-Term Prognosis of Atherosclerosis. Circulation. Jan 2002;105:2-4,15-21.