Understanding Pericarditis

Pericardial disease or pericarditis is an inflammation of any of pericardial layers. Pericardium is a thin double-walled fibroserous sac that surrounds the heart and consists of:

  • Fibrous layer – the most superficial pericardial layer.
  • Serous layer – the inner layer which in its turn is divided into outer parietal and internal visceral layers.
  • Pericardial fluid – the lubricating serous fluid located in the pericardial cavity between the parietal and visceral layers. It serves to reduce the friction of the heart during cardiac contractions.

Pericardium performs an important function by protecting the heart and maintaining its adequate position so that it could work properly.

Causes

In most cases pericarditis develops as a complication of an underlying disease. Since it’s an inflammatory condition, it might seem that it could be the consequence of an infectious disease. However, there are different types of pericarditis depending in its cause:

  • Pericarditis caused by viral, bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections. The most common infectious organisms include streptococcus, Epstein-Barr virus, Candida fungi, toxoplasma, echinococcus.
  • Pericarditis provoked by autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma.
  • Traumatic pericarditis that results from severe injuries or trauma in the chest area. Sometimes it can develop after a surgical intervention in this area.
  • Pericarditis developing due to tumors located directly on the pericardial layers or in the adjacent areas.
  • Pericarditis associated with serious metabolic disorders such as Addison’s disease.

The most common causes of pericarditis include rheumatism and tuberculosis. Besides, the provoking factors for pericarditis are myocardial infarction, endocarditis, allergic reactions, and radiation therapy.

Symptoms

Since this pathology usually develops as a complication of other diseases, it lacks specific clinical symptoms; however, depending on the type, pericarditis symptoms include any of the following:

  • Piercing or sharp pain in the middle or left side of the chest that can spread to one or both shoulders
  • Attacks of heart palpitations
  • Fever
  • Fast or irregular heart rate
  • Swelling of ankles, legs or feet
  • Breathlessness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dry cough

Treatment

The goals of pericarditis treatment involve:

  • Relieving symptoms
  • Treating the underlying conditions
  • Preventing complications

Treatment methods and its duration are determined by the cause that provoked inflammation and complications, if any. Once experiencing first symptoms of pericarditis, one should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Complications and prognosis

In general, pericarditis is considered a disease with a benign outcome since timely qualified treatment leads to a complete recovery in the majority of patients. However, in rare case severe pericarditis can cause serious complications:

  • Cardiac tamponade is caused by too much fluid being collected in the pericardium. It’s a dangerous condition that prevents adequate cardiac contractions and leads to a dramatic decrease in blood pressure.
  • Chronic constructive pericarditis, a rare disease that needs time for development. It causes the formation of scar-like tissue throughout the pericardium, which makes it stiff thus preventing the heart from functioning properly.

How Does Fibre Protect Your Heart?

What is Fibre?

There are two types of fibre- soluble and insoluble but most fibre-rich foods contain some of both. It is also considered either dietary or functional. The dietary kind of fibre is the indigestible part of plants that we eat, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. This is obtained naturally from whole foods. The functional kind of fibre is extracted or prepared in a lab. It’s the type of fibre that is found in supplements or fibre-enriched foods.

Experts say that it’s best to aim for a balanced diet rich with plenty of fibre-laden foods. According to them, it is the whole pattern that seems to have an effect so it is hard to pick out exact foods as food is a complex thing.
Heart-Health Perks

Fibre is mostly associated with a healthy digestive system, but research has shown that it can do a lot more than just keep you regular. Scientists are still trying to figure out how exactly fibre works in the body. Some ways by which it helps your heart are given below:

Lowers cholesterol: Soluble fibre reduces both bad (LDL) and overall cholesterol by binding with cholesterol particles in the digestive system and by driving them out of the body before they are absorbed.

Protects against strokes and diabetes: Stroke and diabetes lead to an increased risk of heart diseases. Fibre-rich whole grains lower the risk of a stroke by up to 36% and the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 30%, as per research.

Reduces blood pressure: In another study, researchers put some people on a high-fibre diet that included lots of whole wheat and whole oats. After 12 weeks they found that the participants had a drop in blood and pulse pressure.

Encourages a healthy weight: Fibre can also become a weight loss weapon as it keeps you full by staving off hunger for a long time.

Longevity: All these benefits add up not only to better heart health but also to a longer life. In a study, researchers had observed a group of people for 9 years. They came to this conclusion that eating lots of fibre lowered the risk of early death among men and women.

Experts say that women under the age of 50 years must get about 25 grams of fibre a day and men must get about 38 grams of fibre. Knowing how fibre guards your heart, you must eat a balanced diet comprising of fibre rich foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables and other nutrients on a regular basis to stay healthy always.

You And Your Healthy Heart

Keeping your heart healthy is everything, and did you know that a full 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented? It’s true and with odds like that, wouldn’t you like to know what you can do to decrease your risk? While we all think that we know what to do to maintain a healthy heart, do we actually all do those things? Changing just a few of the things we do each day can have a great benefit to our heart, and keeping that healthy and happy goes a long way to our well being. Who’s in?

If you’ve ever been to an ER with chest pain, you know one of the first questions they ask you is if you smoke. Not only does it smell bad, cost a lot of money and make you sick, smoking is one of the top risk factors for both heart attack and stroke. Not surprisingly then, one of the top things to do to increase your heart health is to ditch the cigarettes!

Other things on that list are proper weight management, limiting calories, exercise, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, reducing stress, monitor your cholesterol levels and of course, know the risks.

Simply, the risk factors for having a stroke, in addition to smoking is high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, age, family history, taking birth control pills, a prior heart attack, heart failure and excessive drinking of alcohol.

Similarly, the risk factors for a heart attack are again, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, diabetes, hormone replacement therapy, smoking and not getting enough exercise.

Imagine how much ‘heart’ healthier we would be if we exercised more, watched what we ate, kept a close check on our blood pressure and cholesterol levels and tried to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Sometimes, even when we try really hard, heart attacks and strokes happen. If you experience sudden weakness or numbness in face or limbs, if you have a sudden severe headache, difficulty talking or understanding speech, sudden dimness in one eye or unexplained dizziness you may be having a stroke.

If you have chest discomfort, pressure, pain, squeezing or a discomfort in your arms, back, neck, jaw, stomach, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness or you break out into a cold sweat you may be having a heart attack. In both instances seek medical attention right away, it just may save your life!

Is Alcohol Good for Health or Heart?

Many people argue that drinking alcohol is good for health as reported by many research and journals. However there is a catch. Simply drinking alcohol to your heart’s content will cause more harm than good. Moderation is the key. Two drinks per day for men and one drink per day of women above the age of 45 is considered safe and good for hearth heath.

This brings us to another important point as to why drinking more is not more beneficial. Well the answer is simple; excess of anything is and alcohol is is not exception. However, there is more to it. Alcohol in excess quantities over a long period of time increases your blood pressure and weakens your heart muscles, which are some of the reasons of heart attack and many ailments.

Why is alcohol in moderate quantities good for heart?

Blood carries nutrients to all parts of the body. As we drink alcohol, it gets absorbed directly by the bloodstream through our digestive system. As alcohols passed through your arteries, it reduces the amount of fatty deposits, which are mainly responsible for narrowing your arteries. By clearing some of the deposits, alcohol essentially cleans your arteries and makes them flexible and wide. This results in more and better flow of blood through them and reduced blood pressure. Patients who drink moderately are often fitter than those who don’t drink but eat a lot of fatty food and lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Different opinions about moderate alcohol consumption

However, by this article, I have no intention to encourage the reader to start drinking alcohol because there is no guarantee that everyone will benefit from moderate drinking. In fact, even doctors and researchers have varied opinions about it. Many believe that those who can control their alcohol consumption habit, often have better and controlled eating habits than those who drink in excess quantities. The overall better health and reduced blood pressure is a result of their controlled eating habits and not of moderate alcohol consumption. Though some studies and observations indicate towards the benefits of alcohol on heart health, it largely depends on your overall lifestyle, body types and many other factors.

As per a study from more than 20 countries, moderate drinkers are 20-40% less likey to develop heart diseases than those who drink excessively or are non-drinkers. If you can reduce your alcohol consumption, you can change your eating habits as well.