Swine Flu and Heart Disease update June 17th 2009
We’re continuing our coverage of the worldwide progression of the swine flu influenza virus because it has special implications for any of our readers who are suffering from cardiovascular or other types of heart diseases. For earlier articles please see :-
swine flu and heart disease update April 30th 2009
With the news from a couple of days ago, of the first UK death from the swine flu virus (a female patient who died in the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley, Scotland), comes a warning from medical authorities around the globe of concerns that the spread of the virus may explode during the flu season of the autumn and winter of 2009.
This was the first death from the disease outside the American continent, and only serves to reinforce the potentially deadly nature of this influenza pandemic, although news coverage of the swine flu outbreak has tailed off recently as many of the reported cases have been relatively mild in nature.
However, there is a possibility that the H1N1 swine flu influenza strain could mutate into a far most virulent, and possibily extremely deadly strain for groups of people normally affected by the traditional ‘seasonal flu’ such as the sick, the elderly and very young children.
What you need to know about swine flu if you have heart disease
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, people who are suffering from chronic cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease (CVD) are more likely experience severe worsening of their condition if they do contract the influenza virus.
The CDC is also warning US health care providers of the likelihood of increased instances of swine flu related ‘cardiovascular events’ which translates into heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.
Special swine flu information for heart disease and stroke patients
If you have an existing heart condition it is far better to avoid getting the virus, rather than trying to deal with the additional stress that contracting the illness places on your body.
One of the most effective methods of prevention is frequent hand washing with soap and water to prevent exposure to the virus from contaminated surfaces that is subsequently introduced to the body through the mouth or nose, or by rubbing the eyes.
As a precaution you should keep two weeks supply of your heart disease medications whilst the swine flu pandemic is still ongoing.
If you develop ANY flu like symptoms you should ensure that you keep taking your medications unless your doctor advises you differently.
People with heart failure should be alert to changes in their breathing and should promptly report changes to their health care provider.
Finally, it should be remembered that the ‘normal’ seasonal influenza virus kills thousands of vulnerable people around the world every year, so this advice still applies even after the swine flu pandemic has finished.
What is Aortic Stenosis?
The aortic valve is a one-way heart valve that operates as the left ventricle begins to pump blood out of the heart. It’s function is to prevent any ‘backwash’ of blood back into the ventricular chamber when it has completed it’s beating cycle. Aortic Stenosis, or aortic valve stenosis – is a serious degenerative condition where the aortic valve becomes obstructed and does not fully open. This means that with every beat the heart has to struggle against the increased pressure of having to force the blood through a restricted opening.
What causes Aortic Stenosis?
The condition occurs as the aortic valve suffers from the effects of aging and normal use that can eventually cause the valve tissue to degenerate. This condition can be made worse by the subsequent deposition of dietary calcium that can accumulate around the worn valve opening, causing a reduction in movement of the valve. Left untreated the aorta stenosis causes an increased workload on the heart that eventually causes the heart to fail.
Symptoms of Aortic Stenosis
There are a number of symptoms that result from the strain that the heart is placed under as a result of the increased pressure in pumping blood. These include :-
- Chest pain
- Fatigue during exercise
There may also be a type of heart murmur or arrhythmia associated with the condition, although this may not necessarily be noticed by the sufferer.
Initial diagnosis may be complicated by the nature of the above symptoms, as many of them are common to other types of heart diseases. However, diagnosis is usually confirmed by an EKG, or echocardiogram, that may show a unique type of signature trace known as an ‘S4 gallop’.
The problem of correct diagnosis is exacerbated in some older sufferers, and often leads to a delay in getting treatment. This delay may result in a crisis where the risk of surgery is considered to be too great to operate.
Aortic Stenosis Treatment
Because aortic stenosis is a mechanical problem with the flow of blood through the heart valve, there are no real treatment options apart from surgery. Some common heart disease medications may provide a temporary slight relief, but are largely ineffective. In cases of mild aortic stenosis, the patient’s condition is closely monitored, although treatment is usually delayed whilst the overall heart function is effective.
Heart valve replacement surgery is a major operation, that involves a degree of risk – approximately 4 in 100 patients will die during the operation. Surgery to replace the defective aortic valve is usually carried out in cases of severe aortic stenosis when the cardiologist judges that the heart is in imminent danger of failing, and that the risks are outweighed by the catastrophic consequences of not operating.
Post operative recovery is usually accompanied by a rapid noticeable improvement in well-being, as the cause of the blockage is removed and normal heart function returns. Statistics show that over 80 percent of aortic valve replacement patients live for a minimum of five years.