Pneumonia triggers heart attack. Here are its symptoms and prevention tips

Updated on Nov 11, 2022 09:35 AM IST

Research indicates that the greatest risk of heart complications occurs in the month after a pneumonia diagnosis and the risk can continue for up to a decade. Watch out for these warning signs or symptoms and here are tips to prevent cardiac complications or heart attacks during or after pneumonia

Pneumonia triggers heart attack. Here are its symptoms and prevention tips (Image by Tumisu from Pixabay )
Pneumonia triggers heart attack. Here are its symptoms and prevention tips (Image by Tumisu from Pixabay )
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

About 30% of people hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia develop heart failure and other cardiovascular problems but the risk isn’t always immediate. Research indicates that the greatest risk of heart complications occurs in the month after a pneumonia diagnosis, and the risk can continue for up to a decade.

What is a heart attack?

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar, MD DM FESC FSCAI, Senior Cardiologist, Head and Director of Department of Cardiology at Medicover Hospitals in Navi Mumbai, explained, “ Heart attack is the most common form of heart disease. It develops when cholesterol and other substances build up in our heart blood vessels — specifically the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Many things can lead to this buildup, including diet, lifestyle choices, and genetics.”

He elaborated, “The buildup of substances in our blood vessels is dangerous on its own since it can restrict blood flow to the heart and other body parts. But it’s even more serious when pieces of this buildup — called plaques — break off or rupture from the walls of your blood vessels. When this happens, clots or thrombus are formed on the inner lining of blood vessels supplying the heart, cutting off the blood supply to these organs and resulting in a stroke or heart attack.”

Pneumonia and its connection with a heart attack

Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar revealed, “Pneumonia is an infection that can cause inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can lead to other complications, including an increased risk that cholesterol plaque can break free from heart vessel walls and lead to clot formation leading to a heart attack.”

Is this risk only to existing cardiac patients?

According to Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar, even without existing coronary artery disease or plaque buildup, the body-wide inflammation that pneumonia triggers can cause its problems. He shared, “Inflammation can interfere with the normal function of all kinds of systems in our body — especially the heart. This makes heart failure one of the most common complications of pneumonia. The inflammatory response in the body during an infection can increase the risk of a cardiovascular event, but there is some evidence that pneumonia specifically can contribute to plaque breaking off the artery walls and causing a clot which can lead to a heart attack.”

Talking about the warning signs and symptoms, he highlighted that the heart complications or heart attacks are more commonly associated with severe pneumonia characterised by:

1. Patients requiring prolonged ICU admission

2. Patients with multiple lobes of the lung involved or at least 30% of lungs are affected

3. Patients with hemodynamic compromise ( like fall in BP)

4. Patients with very high inflammatory markers ( for e.g ESR, CRP)

5. Patients on ventilatory support

Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar suggested that the cardiac complications or heart attacks can be prevented during or after pneumonia episodes by keeping following measures:

1. Careful monitoring or evaluating risk factors of heart disease like associated diabetes, and hypertension.

2. Prophylactic use of blood thinners or anticoagulation

3. Timely identification of heart attack using blood tests like troponin T , ECG and echocardiogram.

4. Availability of specialist cardiologist for assessment .

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