Research has shown that having the right gut microbes can reduce the risk of heart disease – if you're a mouse. Now, our latest study, published in the European Heart Journal, shows that this might be true for humans, too. Most people know that the risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. But these factors are not very good at predicting heart disease in younger people, in women and in some ethnic groups.
A poor gut microbiome could be the missing risk factor we've been looking for. One of the ways that the risk of heart attack or stroke is assessed is by measuring the hardening of the arteries. This measure, called arterial stiffness, is not strongly associated with high cholesterol or smoking, but it is closely related to inflammation.
Studies have shown that the more inflammation a person has, the higher their risk of heart disease and of having atherosclerotic arteries. Recently, several large clinical studies have shown that inflammation is a key factor in the development of heart disease and stiffening of the arteries.
The microbes that live in our gut seem to be important in preventing a number of diseases caused by inflammation such as psoriatic arthritis, diabetes and gut conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. In all of these diseases, it has been found that there is a lack of diversity of healthy gut bacteria, which means there are fewer kinds of microbes. The links between gut microbes and our health are good news because we can do something to increase their diversity.
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