What Really Causes Heart Disease

When you think of heart disease, you probably think of a cross-section of a heart valve that’s lined with cholesterol. Why, then, do 50% of heart attacks and strokes occur in people with normal cholesterol levels?

Research published in Circulation in 1995 determined that most heart attacks are caused by non-obstructing plaque—a game changer in the field of preventive cardiology.

The study found that 86% of heart attacks occur in individuals with less than a 70% blockage. Furthermore, 68% of heart attacks occur in those with less than 50% blockage.

So what’s the deal?

When we talk about heart attacks, it’s not necessarily about the blockage of the artery so much as the health of the artery wall itself. Inflammation—the body’s response to bacteria, virus, and injury—is the problem.

In 2012, a study published in The Lancet found that inflammation is causal of coronary artery disease. (To put that into perspective, there is not even causal evidence of high cholesterol and heart disease.)

Inflammation is where oral meets systemic. Oral inflammation is the number one cause of inflammation in humans, and if left untreated it can lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body—and, as research tells us, help aid in the progression of heart disease.

Of course, there are many factors that contribute to risk for heart attack, and a multi-factoral approach is essential to the prevention of heart disease. But one thing is for sure: The most important point we have to address is awareness, bridging together all of these areas of research and healthcare to improve health, reduce complications, and lower costs.


Interleukin-6 receptor pathways in coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 82 studies
Coronary Plaque Disruption