How do you take care of your heart after 40?
As you find yourself hitting 40, you may start thinking about health issues you previously didn’t concern yourself with. Should heart health be one of them?
Endocarditis is an infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle in the lining of the heart, a heart valve or a blood vessel. If you do not seek treatment, this infection can further damage heart valves and even cause death.
Endocarditis does not commonly occur in people who have healthy hearts. People at greater risk are those who have a congenital heart defect or a damaged or artificial valve.
Infection-causing bacteria can enter the bloodstream through:
People who have existing damage in a heart valve or have a valve that has been surgically treated (replaced in the past) are susceptible to this bacterial infection.
If you have had endocarditis before, you are at a greater risk for a future infection.
Symptoms can mimic those of the flu or a viral illness – a low fever, night sweats, loss of appetite, body aches and fatigue. Additional symptoms include high fever, chills, vomiting and a rash.
If you have a heart defect that puts you at risk for endocarditis, always mention this to any physician who treats you. Tests physicians may use to diagnose endocarditis include:
Antibiotics, administered intravenously, are used to treat endocarditis. Surgery to repair or replace a valve further damaged by endocartitis also may be necessary.