A Better Way to Screen for Heart Disease?

Research suggests that using statins to lower CRP levels might save lives.

Video: The Dangers of Heart Disease

Healthy waist size. Women who have a waist measurement of over 35 inches and men of over 40 inches are likely to have high levels of inflammation, since excess abdominal fat cells churn out too many inflammatory chemicals. What's deceptive is that many of these individuals also have high levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol and wrongly think they're protected from heart disease, says UCLA cardiologist Karol Watson. Cutting-edge research is now finding that HDL, which normally mops up excess cholesterol from arteries, can actually promote inflammation and add to plaque growth in people who already have high levels of inflammation. Whittling a few inches off the waist can go a long way toward solving that problem.

Adequate sleep. Poor sleeping habits appear to increase levels of inflammatory chemicals. A recent Duke University study found that women who took longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep had higher levels of CRP and another inflammation marker called interleukin-6 compared with those who fell asleep right away. And a May study published in the journal Sleep found that getting less than six hours a night doubles the risk of metabolic syndrome; it also found that sleeping too much—more than eight hours—resulted in more inflammation. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says most adults need between seven and eight hours of shut-eye a night.

Less stress. Since high levels of stress hormones can trigger an excessive inflammatory response, try to work in a daily 15 minutes of relaxation—deep breathing, meditation, or a lovely foot massage.