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Back To Vidyya Heart Disease Risks Higher for Asthma Patients

Risk Remains Higher, Even For Non-Smokers

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 blood sugar."

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 nonsmokers.

"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.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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