Research has shown that having the right gut microbes can reduce the risk of heart disease — in mice. Now, the latest study, published in the European Heart Journal, shows that this might be true for humans, too. 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 scientists have 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. Inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury, but when it is too high, in a way that is not a response to injury, it can cause many diseases, such as arthritis and eczema. Studies have shown that the more inflammation ...

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