The concerning, corroborative findings of two studies recently presented at the 2014 American Heart Association‘s Scientific Sessions suggests active asthma may considerably increase the risk of a heart attack. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates asthma to affect over 23 million Americans. Active asthma is defined as a state that requires daily medications to control attacks and symptoms such as wheezing, a feeling of tightness in the chest, dyspnea, congestion and coughing.
Assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and one of the studies’ authors, Matthew C. Tattersall, D.O., M.S., said the findings emphasize the need to control all other modifiable risk factors in patients with or at risk of developing cardiovascular problems, especially those who are asthmatic. Dr. Tattersall’s study recruited 6,792 participants from a six-community Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) designed to monitor early symptoms of heart disease. Participants’ mean age was 62 years old, and were 47% male. Ethnicities were as follows: 28.4% were Caucasian, 28% were African-American, 22% percent were Hispanic, while the remaining 12% were Chinese-American.
After noting cardiovascular disease risk factors, and upon a 10-year follow up, Dr. Tattersall and his team discovered patients with active asthma were 60% more at risk for experiencing a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events. The researchers suspect the rationale to be linked to the inflammatory state induced by active asthma, as they were noted to have much higher levels of C-reactive protein and fibrinogen – inflammatory markers that tend to make blood more viscous. Those that had asthma, but did not rely on daily medications had median levels of these markers.
The second study from Minnesota was co-authored by Young J. Juhn, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mayo Clinic. It involved the participation of 1,086 patients, who were on average aged 67 years old, mostly Caucasian, and 44% female. A comparison was made between 543 participants who had a history of heart attack, and 543 that did not, who were of the same age and gender. Without considering other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the investigators discovered patients who had active asthma were 70% more at risk of a heart attack.
Dr. Juhn explains these findings stress the importance of knowing a patient’s complete medical history, as patients with asthma need to be told by their health provider to take chest pain seriously, as it may be a sign of a cardiovascular event.