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Heart Health

Autoimmune conditions and heart disease

July 1, 2021

Threats to the heart may be undertreated in people with conditions that boost inflammation.

When the body’s immune system goes awry and mistakenly attacks its own tissues, it triggers an outpouring of white blood cells and other substances. Known as inflammation, this largely invisible, insidious process is the hallmark of autoimmune systemic inflammatory diseases (see "Mysterious immune system misfires").

Inflammation is also at the heart of cardiovascular disease. When fatty plaque builds up inside arteries, the body perceives it as foreign and enlists a similar arsenal of white blood cells. These further ignite an inflammatory response, creating conditions that encourage the blood clots that are responsible for most heart attacks and strokes.

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