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Have/had Hepatitis C? You are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease | World Hep

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

Hepatitis C

People with coronary artery disease (commonly referred to as, heart disease) experience a narrowing or blockage of coronary arteries (arteries are blood vessels that supply the muscle of the heart). This process is typically caused by atherosclerosis, which refers to the accumulation of cholesterol, fat, and calcium (known as plaques) on the inner walls of the arteries. When such buildup impedes the heart’s blood supply, starving the muscle of oxygen, the result can be chest pain, or angina, and, much more seriously, a heart attack.

Research has indicated that hepatitis C is associated not only with coronary artery disease but also with atherosclerosis itself, as well as cardiomyopathy (diseases of the heart muscle), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), heart failure, stroke and cerebrovascular mortality (in which impeded blood supply leads to death through damage to the heart or brain).

Individuals infected with hepatitis C are at a significantly increased risk of developing heart disease, according to a Lancet analysis that also found hep C-linked CVD is responsible for 1.5 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) annually. Furthermore, treating HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a recent paper.

So what should you do?

While this risk has been known from studies, primary care providers and cardiologists do not routinely screen their patients, and patients remain unaware of the risk. If you fit into the high-risk category and your doctor has not discussed this with you, be empowered and ask to be screened. If you or a loved one has or has had HepC, it is highly recommended that you routinely undergo primary heart checkup, including at least an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) test. If you are worried about the test being time-consuming or uncomfortable, fret not, many doctors use a Tele ECG Machine that was quick, that does not require jelly and even send you a digital ECG report.

About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C (HepC) is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV); this virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis infection, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to chronic liver diseases, liver cancer, and in some cases death. Unlike other hepatitis viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent its infection.

Hepatitis C

How is Hepatitis C Spread?

HepC spreads via the transmission of blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. Some of the most common routes include:

  • Unsafe Injections

  • Inadequate Sterilization of Medical Equipment

  • Blood Transfusion

  • Sexual Transmission

What are the symptoms of HepC and how is it diagnosed?

Symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice, joint pain, among others. If you have these symptoms, you have to undergo a blood test for a confirmed diagnosis.

Path to Management of HCV (+ associated heart risks)

  • Support R&D for HCV cures: There are currently 20 candidate products in the pipeline

  • Increase Awareness and Prevention: 3 out of 4 persons are unaware they are infected with HCV. 3 out of 4 people are also unaware of the associated heart risks

  • Improve Screening Availability: Only 1 in 3 counties provides testing accessible to all

  • Develop Policies and Allocate Resources: Only 1 in 3 countries have a national strategy to combat HCV

After all, everything comes down to awareness and access to diagnostic tools and treatment. So stay vigilant and continue to educate yourself on various diseases and associated risk factors.

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