There’s no easy way to say it. Lupus raises your chances of heart disease and stroke. The most common heart problem in people with Lupus is inflammation in the sac around the heart. This can cause shortness of breath and sharp chest pains.
Sometimes steroids used as lupus treatments may increase this risk. Lupus complications are sometimes treated with powerful inflammation-fighters and medicines that calm down the immune system, such as corticosteroids like prednisone.
It is very important to note that taking corticosteroids for a long time can worsen heart health. Doctors may want to lower the dose at times to avoid this serious complication.
Black women with Lupus and other autoimmune diseases need to pay extra attention to their heart health. Not only is heart disease the number one killer of all black women, but the death rate from heart disease is much higher in women of color. Black women are also three times more likely than white women to have Lupus—which in itself raises the risk for heart damage.
Coronary artery disease is common among Lupus patients in particular. More than a third of people with Lupus are at risk for this complication. Inflammation and various immune system abnormalities cause the coronary arteries to rapidly harden, narrow, and clog. This is called atherosclerosis. In time, clots can form or bits of plaque can break off from artery linings, interfering with blood flow to the heart and brain.
Less common causes of coronary artery problems in people with Lupus include inflammation of the artery walls, spasms of the arteries, and blood clots. Female Lupus patients are 50 times more likely than their peers to have chest pain or a heart attack.
Ladies, time to treat your heart with LOVE.
- Eat healthy. To keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control, fill up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Eat baked or broiled fatty fish like salmon at least twice a week. It’s rich in heart-healthy omega-3 oil. Major key…Avoid fast foods and fried foods at all costs. If you can’t, try harder. But if you must eat them, keep it down to a minimum or choose the healthiest options available.
- Avoid smoking. If you are a smoker you really have no choice but to quit ASAP. I know it seems easier said than done, but you have no choice if you want to live. I smoked for almost 20 years and found it difficult to quit myself. I tried and failed several times until I got sick and realized how much tobacco was adding to the destruction of my body.
- Get regular exercise. Activities that are easy on your joints are crucial for Lupus patients. Yoga, swimming, pilates, are great ways to keep your heart and lungs strong with low impact on damaged joints.
Additionally, it is imperative to keep regular doctor visits as well as keeping your doctor informed of any unexpected changes such as shortness of breath and chest pain before these things escalate.
With effective communication and shared information, we are in a better position to arm ourselves for the Lupus and heart battle that many are not fortunate enough to avoid.
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