RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE: INFECTIONS

An infection will raise the amount of inflammation in your body because of the toxins that bacteria and viruses produce, and because of the chemicals our immune cells produce in response to an infection. People suffering with an infection usually have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their body, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed 40 000 medical records and found that some respiratory tract infections and urinary tract infections can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Cystitis and pneumonia were the infections studied, and it was found that in susceptible people the chance of having a heart attack or stroke was much higher in the three days after having a respiratory tract infection.

If you have an elevated level of CRP and you don’t know why, it is quite possible you have a hidden infection in your body. Bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents can produce toxins that cause irritation and injury to the walls of your arteries. This sets the stage for the development of atherosclerosis. Various imaging techniques have allowed doctors to detect microorganisms in the fatty plaques of arteries. Bacterial toxins, cytokines and other chemicals secreted by white blood cells during infections are detected in high amounts in many patients who have recently had a heart attack or stroke.

The bugs suspected of being able to promote heart disease include Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium linked to stomach ulcers; Chlamydia pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia and bronchitis; Herpes Simplex type 1, the virus that causes cold sores; various bacteria that can cause gum disease; and cytomegalovirus, a very common viral infection that usually produces no symptoms at all.

It is very important to have a strong functioning immune system, as this will help to protect you against infections. It is often chronic, long standing infections that do the most harm.

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