How much stress we experience and how we respond to it can cause a wide variety of medical conditions. For example, chronic and uncontrolled stress can exert real physiological effects on the heart, causing and worsening several heart diseases. How about myocarditis, a heart problem in which the heart muscle (myocardium) gets inflamed?
It might not cause any symptoms, even there are many people with the disease recover and never realize they had it. It’s not immediately life-threatening. But if it doesn’t improve, it could be fatal.
Myocarditis symptoms can vary. Depending on the underlying cause and severity of the disease, the symptoms may include:
- Viral infectious (flu-like) symptoms such as fever, body aches, headache, joint pain, diarrhea, cough, and sore throat.
- Fatigue (weakness or tiredness).
- Chest pain.
- Fast breathing or shortness of breath.
- Arrhythmias (rapid, increased heart beats).
- Blue tone to lips, skin, toenails, or fingernails.
- Edema, swelling in certain parts of the body. Edema may signal that the heart works harder than usual. If your heart doesn’t work properly, your blood may back up and cause swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet.
Your heart muscle is responsible to keep your heart work properly. If it gets inflamed, this can significantly affect the ability of your heart to pump blood normally. Without prompt treatment, severe myocarditis can lead to a number of serious complications, such as:
- Heart failure. Severe inflammation of the myocardium can make your heart work harder, causing heart failure symptoms.
- Other heart diseases such as heart attack. Young athletes with mild myocarditis are at risk of sudden death, because they’re usually completely unaware that they have the disease and often feel well enough for competitive sports. See also what types of exercise to avoid with myocarditis in this post!
- In rare cases, myocarditis is associated with cardiomyopathy (a condition in which the heart structures changes and weakens) and pericarditis (inflammation affecting the pericardium (the sac covering the heart)).
Actually, you need stress to keep you alert or motivate yourself to do your best. A quick reaction is required if any harmful things (for example, if a car in front of you) threaten you. With stress, your body releases adrenaline so you can quickly move and leap from the car to save your life.
Chronic, uncontrolled stress can cause adverse effects to your digestive system, reproductive system, immune system, and cardiovascular system – as well as speed up your aging process and interfere with your sleep, mood, & appetite. It can also cause other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety because it can rewire your brain.
The exact cause of myocarditis is not always identified. Even in about 50 percent of all cases, what causes the disease is unknown. In other cases, the cause of the disease can be identified. There are some known causes of the disease, these include:
- The most common cause is viral infection. There are many types of virus associated with meningitis, including those that cause the common cold (flu-like illness, adenovirus), colds, gastroenteritis, hepatitis B & C, rubella, herpes, HIV /AIDs, and mononucleosis.
- Some infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
- Allergic reaction to certain chemicals, toxins, or medications.
- Certain medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
How about stress? Does it also have an effect to increase the risk of developing the disease?
In general, stress is not a specific cause of myocarditis. But it might contribute to increase the risk of developing the disease.
Though the exact way of how stress contributes to heart problems is unclear, it can lead to many factors and behaviors that increase heart disease risk – for examples; elevated blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, overeating, physical inactivity tendency, abusing alcohol, and cigarette smoking.
Chronic, stress overload can cause real adverse effects on your overall health, not only heart. It may also impair the strength of your immune system. If your immune system is weak, you’re relatively easier to get sick and infected by virus, bacteria, or something else.
Although stress alone doesn’t cause myocarditis, it might make myocarditis more likely to occur with the following risk factors:
- If you have a compromised, weak body’s immune system.
- If you have a personal history of myocarditis. There is a chance for the disease to come back months or years after treatment.
- If you’re exposed to certain agents known to cause the disease, cocaine for example.
There is no specific way to prevent myocarditis. However it’s always worth a try to have good stress management. Stress is manageable, though it’s often inevitable. If you can manage it as well, this can help keep your immune system strong.
Managing stress is especially important if you have had myocarditis or another heart disease before. Second heart attack, for example, is more likely to occur in people who feel overwhelmed by stress or feel depressed – according to a few studies.
While specific prevention for myocarditis still remains puzzling, some experts believe that a few changes in lifestyle might help. See more what you can do to prevent the disease in this article!