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Infection possible heart disease risk

Infection possible heart disease risk

(CNN) -- Doctors are finding more evidence to link heart disease to infections.

New research published in the journal Circulation suggests sinusitis, bronchitis and possibly urinary tract infections could play a role in heart disease.

Earlier studies have pointed to stomach ulcers and gum disease as risk factors for heart disease. One small study found that 85 percent of heart-attack patients had periodontal disease, compared to 29 percent of people who did not have heart disease.

"These findings are very important," said Dr. Sidney Smith, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a past president of the American Heart Association. "They open the door for further research."

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One possible explanation, according to researchers, is that infections may cause inflammation of the arteries, which can be measured by testing for a substance called C-reactive protein, or CRP.

"It's important to point out that there are many other possibilities, including the processes by which cholesterol is processed in our bodies," noted Dr. Paul Ridker, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. "(There are also) a variety of other genetic and inherited causes."

Researchers have found a way to reduce blood-vessel inflammation by using a class of cholesterol drug called statins.

"These plaques tend to get smaller, and at the same time, the cholesterol that is deposited in the plaque tends to go away," explained Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "We know (it) goes along also with the removal of inflammation inside the plaque."

CNN Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Inflammation appears to do a number on the human heart
November 13, 2000
New blood test may be predictor of heart attack
March 22, 2000
Diabetes joins list of heart disease risk factors
September 9, 1999

RELATED SITES:
American Heart Association
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Brigham and Women's Hospital

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