As it turns out, inflammation plays a huge role in heart disease. It can affect the heart and surrounding tissue directly–causing a hard to recognize recipe for heart failure–or it can cause your â€œbadâ€ (LDL) cholesterol to oxidize, affecting veins and plaque, both increasing your risk of heart disease as well as undesirable cosmetic effects (visible purple veins under thinner layers of skin).
Funny enough, a nutritious diet not only provides the anti-oxidants necessary to reduce inflammation and protect your veins from LDL cholesterol, it leads to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Further, a diet with a rich and varied array of herbs, fruits, and vegetables contains a number of natural heart health supporting compounds (if youâ€™re not confidant your diet is as inclusive as it could be, or if you have digestive or other health issues that may interfere with nutrient absorption or use, strongly consider adding natural supplements).
Doctors can now test your inflammation levels, and have found a direct correlation between increased inflammation and the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack, as well as your chances of surviving a stroke or heart attack.
General inflammation can be caused by an infection, especially one that does not heal quickly, as well as various lifestyle factors including smoking and a poor diet (low on nutrients, like antioxidants that fight inflammation, as well as high in sugar, which can reduce the number of antioxidants in your body). Itâ€™s also important to take care of other heart diseases that may affect heart health (hypertension, for example).
Specific diseases that involve inflammation of the heart include Pericarditis and Myocarditis.
Generally, either of these two diseases may cause:
- shortness of breath
- leg swelling
- fever, fatigue, and aches (in part due to the infection)
Pericarditis is inflammation (or infection) of the liquid surrounding the heart, causing it to swell and put pressure on the heart, impairing its function. Pericarditis symptoms can vary from weak to a severe, stabbing pain. If you have severe chest pain, always go straight to a doctor in case you are suffering a heart attack, blood clot, or similar life threatening malady. Pericarditis can be diagnosed with body scans. Although it often clears up on its own, complications can be life-threatening, and the condition should be monitored closely.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart that can lead to heart tissue degeneration. It can occur to anyone of any age, and is usually caused by the virus Coxsackie B. Coxsackie B is a group of 6 viruses which can also be a cause for Pericarditis, and present with general flu-like symptoms (fever, ache…) as well as (potentially) a sore throat. Contraction of Coxsackie B is tied to poor nutrition, and, like all pathogens, you are at an increased risk if you have a weakened immune system.
Other viruses and bacteria can also cause Myocarditis, including the flu, chickenpox, hepatitus, gonorrhea and HIV. For both Myocarditis and Pericarditis, any sort of inflammation or infection presents an increased risk for contracting the disease, so the best thing you can do is to protect your health (wash hands, practice safe sex), fight any illness you contract, and reduce your risks by strengthening your immune system, either through healthful practices or supplementation.
There are other risks for heart inflammation, including certain medicines, toxins, surgery, and chest radiation (like for cancer), and general chest trauma. Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis may also cause heart inflammation.
Symptoms of Myocarditis (if any present):
- irregular heart beats and/or rapid heart beats
- an enlarged ventricle
- shortness of breath and/or fluid in the lungs, as a result of ventricle enlargement
Symptoms of either Pericarditis or Myocarditis may go unnoticed and can be easily mistaken for other heart disease symptoms: for this reason, itâ€™s critical that you know your medical history, and watch for signs that you are experiencing heart inflammation. Myocarditis can only be confirmed by a heart biopsy, which can also determine the type of virus or bacteria. However, doctors may look for more common causes before arriving at this conclusion, and if heart inflammation does not go away on itâ€™s own, it can lead to heart failure resulting in death or the need for a transplant.
If you have mild heart inflammation, take care to rest your heart (no exertion), eat a healthy diet (in small portions-this goes back to exertion) and look for ways to naturally strengthen your immune system to help you body clear the infection faster. More moderate heart inflammation may require closer supervision, so that your heart can be stimulated if it’s weakened, and if itâ€™s severe, as above, you need immediate medical attention.