Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Why two anti-inflammatories?

Q. I read about statins having anti-inflammatory effects and lowering CRP levels. So why are we now being told that some people need to take two anti-inflammatories — aspirin and a statin?

A. Aspirin and the statin drugs probably work in different ways to help reduce cardiovascular risks, and it's not clear that suppressing inflammation is the important feature of either of them.

One way to begin to understand how these drugs might help you in different ways is to see the atherosclerosis that leads to heart attack as a process that causes damage. The body's mechanism for repairing that damage leads to the release of a torrent of chemicals that causes what we call inflammation. When the damage that is being repaired is in your skin, you can see the red, inflamed area. When it's in your arteries, you can't see it, but we can measure some of the chemicals that are released. One of those measurements is the C-reactive protein (CRP) test. CRP goes up when there is inflammation of any kind, but it's far from certain that lowering your CRP by suppressing the inflammation is beneficial. In fact, going against Mother Nature and suppressing processes like inflammation is often a bad idea.

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