People with chronic Hepatitis C infection are known to have an
elevated risk for cardiovascular disease. Despite this understanding,
the usual markers of cardiovascular disease may not necessarily apply to
those with Hepatitis C. This is because the circulatory systems of
people with Hepatitis C appear to contain less fat than the general
population; however, there is sufficient evidence associating this
chronic liver virus with atherosclerosis.
As if the Hepatitis C virus taking up residence in the liver isn't
enough to contend with, it also raises the risk for cardiovascular
disease - the number one killer in America. Cardiovascular diseases are
conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, such as heart
disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, deep vein thrombosis and
stroke. Knowing the risks for cardiovascular disease can help people
maintain their heart and blood vessel health, detect an emerging problem
and successfully manage existing conditions.
The Usual Suspects
The primary cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis,
otherwise known as hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a
process in which deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular
waste products, calcium and other substances build up in the inner
lining of an artery. Called plaque, this buildup can grow large enough
to significantly reduce the blood's flow through an artery.
There is a long list of risks for developing atherosclerosis,
including genetics, blood health markers, high blood pressure, other
co-existing diseases, smoking, activity level, obesity and diet.
However, hyperlipidemia is traditionally one of the most important risk
factors for atherosclerosis. Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of lipids
(fats) in the bloodstream. These lipids include cholesterol, cholesterol
esters (compounds), phospholipids and triglycerides. Individuals who
are considered to be at the highest risk for cardiovascular disease have
atherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia.