Having asthma may increase a person's risk of heart disease by a third, according to research presented Friday at the American Heart Association's 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in San Antonio, Texas.
Kaiser Permanente researcher Carlos Iribarren, MD, MPH, PhD, found that
nonsmoking patients with asthma were 33% more likely to develop -- or die from
-- heart disease than nonsmoking patients without asthma. "This means that
asthmatic patients and their doctors should be particularly careful," says
Dr. Iribarren, "not only about managing their asthma, but also about managing
cardiovascular risk factors such as blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and
Dr. Iribarren's research was prompted by an interest in the "increasing
realization," as he puts it, "that heart disease is an inflammatory process.
Since asthma is an inflammatory disease as well, we were interested in finding
out if asthma patients had an increased risk of heart disease."
Earlier studies have indicated an excess cardiovascular mortality among
patients with asthma. What is new is that the connection -- and the risks
-- appear to be there even for non-smokers.
The work being presented at the conference uses data that has been
collected over the last 20 years among members of the Northern California
Kaiser Permanente Medical Care program, one region of the nation's largest
non-profit HMO. There have been prior studies of the link between asthma and
heart disease, mostly in Europe, but none of them looked specifically at
"The reason to study nonsmokers is to rule out the strong influence of
smoking on both asthma and heart disease," says Dr. Iribarren. "This is an
important question because asthma affects about 6% of the general population,
and heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S."
Dr. Iribarren's previous work has included studies of cigar smoking and
its relationship to cancers of the throat, mouth, esophagus, and lung, as well
as heart and lung disease; he has also published research on the connection
between hostility in young people and later heart disease, as well as early
indicators of heart disease visible on old-technology X-rays.