Cardiovascular Disease and Hepatitis C

What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease is the overall term for blood vessel diseases and problems. There are four main diseases that you have likely heard about, both within the general media and maybe within the medical histories of your family or friends. First are problems of the heart’s valves. This happens when deterioration of the valve occurs, causing the heart not to be able to properly pump blood through the heart and into the various parts of the body. When this transpires, surgery and medications are typically prescribed.

Second are heart arrhythmias. This is when the heart is unable to beat at the same pace on a consistent basis. This often means that such a problem will require medications, though they may also require a permanent pacemaker or lead to the need for medical professionals to utilize a cardiac defibrillator to try to electrically shock the heart into the proper rhythm.

Third are heart attacks. These can be deadly, so those with high risks of blood clots are often placed on clot busting medications. They may also require open heart surgeries, such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass.

Lastly are strokes. These are not always treatable, as the medication used to try to reverse the damage due to stroke must be administered within three hours of the stroke event.

In each of the four cases, there are medical interventions that may be possible. However, not every person knows when they are at risk, and sometimes the way they find out is when they experience one of these traumatic heart-related illnesses. While some are lucky enough to arrive at a hospital in time for medical assistance, others are not so fortunate.

This is why it is vital that risk factors be considered and that those at higher risk of heart problems be as vigilant as possible in maintaining their heart health.

Is there an association between hepatitis C and cardiovascular disease?

This is a great question; however, the answer is not so easy to find. This is because the human body has so many moving pieces and parts that, while many researchers have found what they believe to be a correlation between hepatitis C (hep C) and cardiovascular disease, there are still some doctors and scientists who believe that there may be other causes that are either not hep C or they are not solely to be blamed on a hepatitis C diagnosis.

What does the research show?

Research generally shows a consistent connection between those with hepatitis C and those who are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, though, research sometimes shows that a person with hep C has a more favorable risk profile – people with hepatitis C (HCV) are much more likely to actually experience symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

In some studies, the differences between HCV positive patients and HCV negative patients was minimal, but this varies by study, so it remains difficult to tell how concerned a person with a positive hepatitis C viral load should be.

However, as cardiovascular disease can be deadly, even the researchers who are not certain of a definitive connection maintain the recommendation that a person is always better being overly cautious than to not assume there is a direct correlation.

What can I do to minimize my risks of cardiovascular disease and maximize my health?

For many, including those without a hepatitis C diagnosis, doctors recommend maintaining a low blood pressure and being cautious about a person’s fat intake within their dietary choices. Although these are definitely behaviors that any person can benefit from partaking in, they are likely not enough on their own to prevent cardiovascular disease in those who have a positive hepatitis C diagnosis.

For those with hepatitis C, the management and lowering of one’s viral load is vital. This means that any recommendations for a person looking to lower their HCV load would also find cardiovascular benefits in doing so.

These recommendations often include abstaining from alcohol. This is because alcohol can exacerbate the virus within your body and because alcohol can inhibit your hepatitis C medication. Either can cause an increase in your viral load, and both can cause an increase in your viral load, which can be difficult to reverse and may require medical intervention.

Others choose additional non-prescription methods to maintain their health and control their viral load, including taking milk thistle or eating foods rich in antioxidants. These foods include fruits such as cranberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and vegetables such as artichokes, beans, and russet potatoes.1-7

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