Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are one of the leading causes of death globally. In the US alone, 84 million people are suffering from CVD. Most of the time, we link heart diseases – heart attack, stroke, and heart failure – to stress, anxiety, excessive body weight, and unhealthy lifestyle habits. But did you know, frequent and recurring infections, like urinary tract infections, influenza, and pneumonia, also make you susceptible to heart attacks and stroke?
Yes, you read it right. In fact, the close association of infections and heart disease is not new. Numerous researchers have, time and again, proved that both bacterial and viral infections can trigger acute cardiovascular events, leading to weakening of heart muscles, inflammation, heart rhythm irregularities and more.
In this article, we’ll help you learn about various viruses and bacteria that cause coronary diseases, the heart complications they lead to, and what you can do to stay protected. So come, let’s dig in together.
Viruses and Bacteria That Cause Heart Diseases
There are a number of viruses and bacteria that can lead to heart diseases. These include:
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Coxsackie B viruses
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
- Herpes virus
- Hepatitis C virus
- Mycoplasma (bacteria that causes lung infection)
- Streptococcal bacteria
- Staphylococcal bacteria
- Treponema (which causes syphilis)
- Borrelia (which causes Lyme disease)
How Bacterial and Viral Infections Trigger Coronary Events?
Both viral infections (the most common cause of myocarditis or the inflammation of the heart muscles) and bacterial infections (which lead to a life-threatening inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves called endocardium) lead to heart diseases. But the way in which they cause the disease is different.
During a viral infection, body’s immune system produces white blood cells (WBCs) to fight the disease causing germs. The WBCs, in turn, release chemicals, which can cause the inflammation of heart muscles, significantly impairing the way they pump blood. The increased pressure on the heart leads to heart diseases and even a complete heart failure.
On the other hand, during bacterial infections, bacteria from other parts of your body enter your bloodstream and reach your heart. There, these bacteria attach to the damaged valves of your heart and lead to various heart ailments. People are at the greatest risk for endocarditis if they have existing heart conditions, damaged heart valves, artificial heart valves or other heart impairments.
Heart Complications Caused by Persistent or Recurring Infections
The bacterial and viral infections can severely damage your heart muscles and lead to several heart complications including:
- Abnormal heart beats or heart murmur
- Pockets of pus in the heart
- Changes in the structure of heart muscles (cardiomyopathy)
- Partial or complete damage of heart valves
- Weakening and inflammation of heart muscles
- Inflammation of the sac covering the heart (pericarditis)
- Complete heart failure
Who’s at Risk?
You are more likely to develop heart diseases due to bacterial and viral infections if you have:
- Old age: People over age 60 are at significant risk for heart diseases due to infections.
- Damaged heart valves: Damaged or scarred heart valves are more susceptible to destruction than the healthy heart valves.
- Artificial heart valves and implanted devices: Bacteria are more likely to attach to artificial (prosthetic) valves and implanted devices (like the pace maker).
- Congenital heart disease: Having a heart defect right from birth makes you more susceptible to infection.
- History of endocarditis: A previous history of endocarditis significantly increases your risk for future infection too.
- Long-term catheter use: A prolonged use of catheter increases puts you at an increased risk for heart infections.
- History of drug use: Needles used for drug injections are usually contaminated and can cause infections in the body and heart.
How to Stay Protected?
While healthy eating and clean living are the most important ways to prevent heart diseases, you must also try to build a strong immune system and protect your body from infections as much as possible. For this,
Eat foods that help to build your immunity
Regularly consuming vegetables and fruits that are rich in beta carotene, ascorbic acid & other essential vitamins help you to build resilience in the body against infections. So, load your plate with foods like mushrooms, tomato, bell pepper, broccoli, and spinach. Also, regularly include natural immunity supplements like basil, ginger, turmeric, and garlic into your diet.
Don’t miss on probiotics
Yoghurt and fermented foods are excellent source of good, gut-friendly bacteria that help to fight infection. Regularly include them in your diet too.
Squeeze in some Vitamin C into your diet too
Citrus fruits, like grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes and gooseberries, are all good sources of vitamin C and should be regularly included in the diet. Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells and helps your body to fight infections.
Stay up to date with your vaccinations
Talk to your primary care physician for your annual vaccination shots. Vaccination is one of the easiest way to protect yourself from various potential infections.
Practice good hygiene
Maintain a good oral and personal hygiene to prevent bacteria from dwelling in your body.
Get enough sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely tied. A good night’s sleep helps to relax your body and strengthen your immune system. So, aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep every night. It will help your immune system to better fight illnesses and diseases.
Maintain a healthy weight
Keep your weight under check through healthy diet and regular exercise. Obesity not only increases the chances of inflammation in your body, it also weakens your immune system and makes you more prone to metabolic diseases.
Regular exercise is the easiest way to build a strong immune system. It helps to improve your health, maintain an ideal weight, and keep diseases and infections at bay. So make sure to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your schedule.
Stress weighs your body down. It weakens your immune system and makes it prone to diseases and infections. To stay healthy, try to keep yourself stress-free. Mediate, practice yoga, indulge in a hobby and socialize with friends to relax your mind and body.
Never take your infections lightly
You must never, ever take infections lightly. Always get in touch with your primary care physician for proper medication and remediation of all types of bacterial and viral infections. Even the slightest negligence can make your infection severe and put you at an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
At EPIC Health, we can help you fight infections, build a strong immune system and prevent heart diseases. Through comprehensive tests, regular screenings, and on-time vaccinations, we can help you detect, prevent as well as treat infections before they lead to chronic health conditions. Our expert nutritionists can also help you adopt healthy diet and lifestyle practices to boost your immune system and to ensure that you stay healthy inside-out.
Schedule an appointment with our health experts today! We can help you live happy, healthy and better.