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Myocarditis: Young men often affected



  • What is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)?
  • What are the causes of myocarditis?
  • What symptoms occur with myocarditis?
  • Can you detect myocarditis by looking at your blood pressure and pulse?
  • How do I know if it is actually myocarditis?
  • Why are young athletes often affected by severe disease?
  • What are the consequences of exercise despite myocarditis?
  • How can I prevent myocarditis?
  • How long do I have to take it easy after myocarditis?

You know the old story from your doctor or your parents: “Don’t let your cold drag on, don’t do too much exercise after a flu-like infection. There could be a risk of myocarditis.” But which ambitious athlete sticks to it? However, you can read here why young, extremely fit men in particular should take this warning seriously.

What is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)?

The muscle layer between the inner and outer skin of the heart is called the heart muscle. The electrical signals that cause the heart muscle to contract and pump blood from the heart into the body pass through them. In myocarditis, the technical term is when the heart muscle cells, the coronary arteries or the tissue surrounding the heart are inflamed. This restricts the activity of the heart muscle, but this is often hardly noticeable. Unfortunately. Because without symptoms, you think you are more efficient than you are – with the result that you don’t take it easy and an acute inflammation of the heart muscle threatens to turn into a chronic one.

What are the causes of myocarditis?

In around 50 percent of cases, myocarditis is preceded by a viral infection of the respiratory tract, such as a severe cold, pneumonia or Covid-19 infection. But bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections can also spread to the heart.

According to American and Israeli studies, corona vaccines can also trigger myocarditis in extremely rare cases (1.3 cases per 100,000 second vaccinations), reports the Charité German Heart Center; young men are comparatively often affected. However, the risk of becoming ill through a vaccination was significantly lower than after contracting Covid-19.

Less commonly, myocarditis is also the result of autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatism. High alcohol consumption and some medications such as anti-rheumatic drugs and antidepressants can also cause heart problems.

What symptoms occur with myocarditis?

Myocarditis usually causes hardly any symptoms or they are very diffuse and can indicate a wide variety of diseases. Typical symptoms are:

  • exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain behind the breastbone
  • Heart palpitations and racing hearts
  • Fever

Can you detect myocarditis by looking at your blood pressure and pulse?

No, they alone are not meaningful enough, even if it makes sense for athletes to regularly measure blood pressure (e.g. with a simple device from Omron) and pulse (e.g. heart rate monitor from Pulox). In general, however, a low systolic value (which is the former, higher value) of less than 100 mm Hg can be an indication (ideally it is usually around 120 mm Hg). This is what every man should know about his blood pressure. However, if this “low blood pressure” is also accompanied by an increased heart rate of over 100 beats per minute at rest, one could consider inflammation of the myocardium.

Recommendation: There is a great tool with which you can monitor your blood pressure and heart rate: With Aktiia you can conveniently measure your blood pressure 24/7 on your wrist. The only thing you have to do is wear a bracelet. We tested it and are thrilled. To set it up, all you have to do is pair the bracelet with the app, measure your blood pressure once with the included cuff, and the lightweight bracelet will continuously measure your blood pressure using pulse wave analysis – day and night. In addition to blood pressure, heart rate is also measured. In the app you can then have reports compiled about the data collected – for yourself and also for your doctor. Here You can find out more about the clinically tested blood pressure monitor and order it conveniently for your home. In January there is even a 10 percent discount!

How do I know if it is actually myocarditis?

It’s not that easy and that’s why myocarditis is often overlooked. Typical symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath are usually attributed to an infection, especially since heart palpitations or pain behind the breastbone often do not even occur.

Elevated inflammatory parameters, the so-called CRP value, and the creatine kinase and leukocyte values ​​in the blood count can be indications of myocarditis, as can an abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG), which helps detect cardiac arrhythmias and which you can have done at your family doctor’s office .

However, the result of a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiography) by a cardiologist is safer. The pumping capacity of the heart, which is restricted in the case of myocarditis, can be examined. An MRI and a tissue sample of the heart muscle provide a confirmed diagnosis.

Important: Only a doctor can ultimately diagnose myocarditis with certainty, not you yourself. You can find a cardiologist near you here.

Why are young athletes often affected by severe disease?

In general, inflammation of the heart muscle can affect anyone, and it usually heals again – if you take it easy during the regeneration period and completely avoid sports and other physical stress. Acute inflammation weakens the heart muscle so much that it quickly reaches its limits.

But again and again, young, sporty people in particular ignore the risk and force themselves to perform at high levels too quickly. The diagnosis of “sudden cardiac death” in young people under 40 is often preceded by delayed myocarditis. In autopsies of young people who died without an apparent cause of death, myocarditis turns out to be the likely cause in 10 percent of cases.

What are the consequences of exercise despite myocarditis?

If you exercise despite having myocarditis, your heart will be overloaded. This can subsequently lead to cardiac arrhythmias, because in the event of inflammation the heart can only deliver a fraction of its normal pumping capacity. If it is still required, permanent damage such as scarring can occur, which can lead to chronic heart failure and reduce your performance forever. In the worst case scenario, you may need a heart transplant or suffer sudden cardiac death.

But don’t panic: In 80 percent of all cases, myocarditis heals completely, and chronic heart disease develops in only 15 percent. And you yourself can help prevent this from happening in the first place.

How can I prevent myocarditis?

  • Don’t ignore your body’s signals. Even increased fatigue and reduced performance can be serious indications. So if you don’t feel quite fit after a bad cold, a Covid-19 infection or a severe gastrointestinal infection, then take it easy on your body or get checked out by a doctor. Inflammation of the heart muscle usually heals without any problems – if you give it the time to do so.
  • After a serious infection, athletes should then have a cardiologist examine whether the heart has been damaged by the infection.
  • If you plan to train more intensively in the future, try out extreme biohacks or get involved in competitive sports, whether alone or in a club, you should generally have your heart examined by a cardiologist beforehand. “It is known that sudden cardiac death can occur during competitive sports, especially extreme sports, if heart disease remains undetected,” warns the German Heart Foundation.
  • Question your alcohol consumption. Numerous studies indicate that excessive alcohol consumption leads to inflammation in the body, which can also affect the heart muscle. This is what happens when you drink less alcohol.

How long do I have to take it easy after myocarditis?

If you have been diagnosed with myocarditis, you have to expect 3 to 6 months of physical rest, and only after a final examination by the cardiologist and with his approval can you slowly start training again. By the way: In the case of myocarditis, taking it easy not only requires physical rest, but also abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes. This is how you become a non-smoker.

Of course, you don’t have to stay in bed every time you have a cold. Light endurance sport is usually good for you; it increases your immune system and relieves headaches. But take exercise slowly if you don’t feel fit and pay attention to your body, check your pulse and blood pressure with your fitness tracker, for example and your body temperature with the clinical thermometer. If you have a fever or swollen lymph nodes, you should stop exercising.

Even if you are an ambitious athlete and taking a break from sports means a hard setback, remember: If you contract myocarditis, it is not unlikely that you will have to avoid exercise for months or possibly forever, ruining your health in the long term.


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