World Pneumonia Day is observed on November 12. It is entirely dedicated to spreading awareness among people to understand the need to stand together and demand action in the fight against Pneumonia. 

Pneumonia is a common respiratory infection, affecting approximately 450 million people in a year around the world.

Did you know that Pneumonia triggers heart attacks? Yes, it is true. 

Heart failure and other cardiovascular issues affect 30% of patients with community-acquired pneumonia who are admitted to hospitals, however, the danger is not always imminent. 

According to research, the month after a pneumonia diagnosis the risk of cardiac issues rises and can exist for a long time. 

In this blog, we will put light on how Pneumonia can trigger a heart attack and how we can prevent it. 

What is Pneumonia? 

Pneumonia is a contagious infection with symptoms of cold and flu from mild to severe. This infection affects one or both of your lungs through bacteria, fungi or viruses. This is the biggest cause of respiratory disorders like asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, lung cancer, mesothelioma, pulmonary hypertension, and tuberculosis.

Symptoms like fever, chills, general discomfort, excessive sweating, cough, and rapid breathing (tachypnea) are experienced by the person infected with Pneumonia.

How Pneumonia and heart attack are related?

Pneumonia is a type of infection that causes inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to other complications such as an increased risk that pieces of plaque can break free from your vessel walls and lead to heart attack or stroke. 

Inflammation can prevent your body’s many systems, particularly the heart, from operating normally. As a result, heart failure is one of pneumonia’s most common side effects.

Basically, it increases the stress on the heart and can lead to a cardiac event like heart failure, heart attack or arrhythmias. 

Is this risk only to existing cardiac patients?

About 1.4% of patients receiving outpatient care for pneumonia who have no record of previous heart failure also experience worsening heart failure as a result of pneumonia. 

The widespread inflammation might result in complications even in the absence of coronary artery disease or plaque formation.

There is some evidence that pneumonia can particularly help plaque break off the arterial walls and cause a clot that can cause a heart attack, but the inflammatory response in the body during an illness can also raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Major signs and symptoms that show heart attacks are related to severe pneumonia:

  • Patients needing extended ICU stays
  • Patients who have more than one lung lobe impacted or at least 30% of the lungs are affected
  • Patients with compromised hemodynamics ( like a dip in BP levels)
  • Individuals with high levels of inflammatory markers ( for e.g ESR, CRP)
  • People on ventilator support

How to prevent Pneumonia? 

Get a flu shot:

Getting immunised against the flu every year is one of the greatest ways to prevent as it is a common cause of pneumonia.

Get vaccinated if your risk level is high:

To find out if you require the pneumococcal vaccination, consult your doctor. All children under the age of 5, adults aged 65 and older, and anybody else who has a higher risk of having pneumococcal pneumonia because of other medical issues should have this vaccination. 

Inquire with your doctor about additional immunizations for pertussis, chicken pox, and measles that might help prevent illnesses that could cause pneumonia.

Wash your hands regularly:

The spreading of germs and infections can be stopped by frequent hand washing, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, and before and after eating or preparing food. 

Quit smoking:

Smoking makes your immune system weak and smoking harms your lungs’ ability to fight off infection, you are thought to be at a high risk of developing pneumonia. It is better to quit smoking early before it becomes an addiction. 

Follow healthy eating habits:

The prevention of this disease and other illnesses can be aided by healthy eating, regular exercise, and adequate rest. Consult your doctor if you are worried about your health to learn about healthy lifestyle changes you may follow.

Other preventive measures: 

  • Careful evaluation of risk factors of heart disease like associated diabetes, and hypertension.
  • Preventive use of blood thinners or anticoagulation
  • A regular check for heart attack with the help of blood tests like troponin T, ECG and echocardiogram.

Final thoughts 

Your lungs and heart work hand in hand with each breath you take. Chronic illnesses and infections that affect one organ can also affect the functioning of the other one too. 

Your chance of acquiring heart disease or seeing your current heart condition deteriorate is increased by pneumonia. Similarly, having heart disease raises your chance of contracting pneumonia. 

Discuss your general health with your doctor, including ways to prevent acute infections like pneumonia and chronic heart disease.

Going for healthy dietary options and lifestyle aspects is one thing, but the optimum approach includes preventive measures like timely health checkups and vaccinations.

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