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Inflammation: More Important than Cholesterol?

At the American Heart Association conference in New Orleans, researchers from the Jupiter study reported that statin drugs caused people with normal cholesterol but with high C-reactive protein levels to suffer 54 percent fewer heart attacks, 48 percent fewer strokes, 46 percent fewer angioplasties or bypass operations and 20 percent fewer deaths from any cause than those taking placebos (NEJM November 9, 2008). The results were so dramatic they made the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post and many other newspapers.

A C-reactive protein test (CRP) measures inflammation. Inflammation is caused by anything that keeps your immunity active such as chronic infections or anything that damages tissue such as smoking, having high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Last week I reported a theory to explain why eating mammal meat causes inflammation and is associated with increased risk for premature death, cancers and heart attacks. Meat contains a molecule called Neu5Gc that humans do not have, so the immune system of humans attacks this protein as if it was an invading germ and eventually attacks the host itself to destroy the blood vessels and increase risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Many scientists feel that inflammation is a stronger predictor of heart attacks than high cholesterol levels. At present, statins are prescribed to treat people with heart disease or high cholesterol. This study shows that they prevent heart attacks in people with high CRP and normal cholesterol levels, presumably because statins reduce inflammation. About 7 million people in the US have normal cholesterol and high CRP. Treating them with a brand-name statin would cost each $116 a month or $9.7 billion a year, and prevent about 28,000 heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths each year. Rather than just writing a prescription, I think doctors should ask why a patient's CRP is elevated and try to lower it with lifestyle changes or treatment of any underlying chronic infection.

If you read my book The Healthy Heart Miracle (first published in 2003), you know this already.

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Reports from drmirkin.com

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Jock itch
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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How could having migraine headaches reduce breast cancer risk?

Few migraine sufferers can see any bright side to their pain, but now we have one study showing that a history of migraines is associated with a lower risk for breast cancer. The report appears in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (November 2008). Researchers pooled data from two studies of postmenopausal women to compare odds ratios among 1900 with breast cancer and 1400 controls. Women who had migraines showed reduced risks for ductal and lobular carcinomas, especially hormone-receptor–positive tumors.

One of the triggers for migraines is a sudden drop in estrogen that causes a drop in brain levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes you happy and smart. Premenstrual syndrome occurs when the sudden drop in estrogen in the later part of the menstrual cycle causes a drop in serotonin that can make some women sad and depressed. Women who suffer migraines may have lower levels of estrogen, the female hormone that can stimulate breast cancers to grow.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I have a knobby, bony area on top of my foot that hurts when I walk or run. Is this common, and is there a simple remedy?

A nerve runs across the top of the foot, so when you have spurs or "bony and knobby" growths on the top, anything that presses against them will irritate that nerve, causing tingling, burning or shooting pains. If it presses the blood vessel, you get throbbing as well.

When lacing your shoe, skip the holes that cross the area of these bumps. Be sure to leave the laces loose. The only other suggestion (short of surgery to remove the spurs) would be to place 1/8" adhesive felt on each side of the bumps to keep pressure off. --This answer comes from Gene Mirkin, DPM

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Recipes for your Thanksgiving holiday spread

Cranberry-Wild Rice Salad
Quinoa-Mushroom Pilaf
Fall Fruit Curry

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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