Myocarditis has gained widespread media attention in the last few months. With February being Heart Month in Canada, we explore this important topic from a genetic perspective and share our findings on how your genetics may hold valuable clues to your myocarditis risk, and what you can do to improve symptoms.
There are increasing reports of concerning side effects for both COVID and the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. In some individuals, one outcome has been the development of myocarditis or pericarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle and the inflammation of the lining outside of the heart.
Studies conducted by the CDC from March 2020 to January 2021 found that COVID-19 patients were more likely to develop myocarditis than those who were not infected by COVID-19.
What’s more, the administration of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine has resulted in reports of myocarditis and pericarditis in some individuals.
While some studies note an increased protection from myocarditis as a result of receiving a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, others raise concerns around the increased chances of developing myocarditis from the COVID-19 vaccination in individuals that are otherwise healthy.
The strong prevalence of heart disease rates plus the increasing rates of myocarditis and pericarditis (especially in males under the age of 30 years) makes us eager to share the role genetics play in heart health, and what you can do now to take preventative action.
We encourage you to learn more about the risk factors of heart disease, what you can do to prevent it, and how to raise heart health awareness with those you love.
What is Myocarditis and Pericarditis?
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis occurs when the lining outside of the heart becomes inflamed.
Symptoms of Myocarditis and Pericarditis
Symptoms of both myocarditis and pericarditis include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- a feeling of rapid or abnormal heart rhythm
- gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain)
- edema (swelling of the lower legs)
Genetic Predisposition Of Heart Inflammation – Myocarditis or Pericarditis
There is growing evidence that the incidence of myocarditis may be impacted by certain genetic markers, favouring or inhibiting the development of heart inflammation as a result.
While research in this field of study is relatively new, genetic markers such as TNFA have been shown to increase susceptibility to the development of inflammatory heart conditions, such as cardiac sarcoidosis, a rare inflammatory condition where groups of immune cells form granulomas in different areas of the heart.
TNFA (Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha) – The Inflammatory Tumour Gene
TNFA is a protein-coding gene, responsible for various functions in activating inflammatory cytokines related to cell survival, proliferation, differentiation, and death.
This cytokine has been implicated in a variety of diseases, including autoimmune diseases, insulin resistance, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis ankylosing spondylitis, tuberculosis, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, and cancer.
In other words, TNFA stimulates the immune system in response to inflammatory factors present during infections. Those with the GA or AA genotype are associated with an increased risk of inflammatory conditions and complications when fighting against infections.
Aside from TNFA, other genes related to cardiovascular health and inflammatory conditions (which have not yet been researched in their implications to myocarditis) include:
ACE (Angiotensin I Converting Enzyme)
The ACE gene provides instructions for making the angiotensin-converting enzyme. It is part of the renin-angiotensin system, which regulates blood pressure and the balance of fluids and salts in the body. Ultimately impacting blood pressure regulation and cardiovascular health.
CRP (C-Reactive Protein)
CRP is involved in the recognition of foreign pathogens and damaged cells for the process of elimination. Thus, C-Reactive Protein is greatly increased in the blood during an acute response to tissue injury, infection or other sources of inflammation. Elevated expression of the C-Reactive Protein is associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome from SAR-COV-2 infection.
10 Strategies to Manage and Reduce the Risk of Myocarditis
- Focus on high anti-inflammatory foods. (Read this article on ‘5 Antioxidants That Support Your Immune System’.)
- Eat a heart-healthy diet, limiting salt and saturated fats.
- Manage autoimmune flareups by eating an anti-inflammatory diet such as the autoimmune paleo diet.
- Take care of your immunity. (Read our article on ‘7 Ways To Boost Your Immune System Naturally‘.)
- Manage stress levels. Adopt stress-relieving techniques such as meditation, deep-intentional breathing, yoga, acupuncture, practice mindfulness, journaling, exercising, joining a community or social group.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Cut out processed foods.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Prevent your chances of contracting viruses and bacterial infections. Avoid close contact with anyone who has recently contracted an infection or influenza.
- Practice good hygiene by cleaning high traffic areas around your home, car, or workplace. Washing your hands and clothes regularly.
Genetic markers do not cause myocarditis, rather, they serve as hereditary markers that may indicate increased risks of inflammatory responses to viral or bacterial infection.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to interpret your dnaPower report for increased risk of inflammatory heart conditions, or if you are interested in learning more about DNA testing in general, one of our customer care team members will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org