Asthma (Possibly) Linked To Heart Disease

Health Professional

We now know that asthma isn't just a disease of the respiratory system, that it is a syndrome linked with the immune system, nervous system, and even the intestinal system.  The latest research now suggest a possible link between asthma and the cardiovascular system.

The study was performed at Northwestern University and published in the December 8, 2015, issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology. It involved a survey of 13,275 children from all 50 states, and showed that those with allergic asthmatics were twice as likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol than those without asthma.

It should be known here that most cases of asthma diagnosed in childhood (childhood onset asthma) also involve allergies.  It should also be known that about 75 percent of asthmatics overall also have allergies.  The asthma subtype involved here is sometimes called allergic asthma or eosinophilic asthma.

It should also be known that both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, (particularly the bad kind of cholesterol), is linked with heart disease.  High blood pressure results from arteries that are constricted, and this causes the heart to work hard to push blood through them. This can cause strain on the heart.

The bad kind of cholesterol are called low density lipoproteins (LDL). According to the American Heart Association, it contributes to the buildup of plaque inside arterial walls that can make the arteries less flexible or hard. This is a condition called atherosclerosis.  It makes the arteries increasingly narrow, leading to high blood pressure.  Clots may form and block arteries, leading to a heart attack or stroke.

What's the connection?

We must keep in mind this is only one study, so ongoing studies will need to be performed to confirm the link.  Likewise, researchers are unsure of the cause or effect of the link.

However, one theory is that asthma is an inflammatory disease, and that inflammatory markers may cause more than just asthma. Evidence already suggests inflammatory markers may cause anxiety in some asthmatics. Some evidence even suggests inflammatory markers may cause migraine headaches in some asthmatics that lead to chronic migraine.  Researchers guess that the same inflammatory markers may also lead to heart disease.

The study also showed that asthma occured in 14 percent, exzema occured in 12 percent, and allergies in 16.6 percent.  All of these are associated with higher rates of obesity, which may also be a contributing factor leading to the link between allergies and heart disease.  Asthmatics may also be more sedentary than non-asthmatics, and this may also contribute to heart disease.

So you can see that further studies will be needed to confirm the link, and to confirm cause and effect.

Regardless, this might be reason enough to suggest that the path to heart disease may begin early in life among those with allergic asthma. This should encourage physicians to screen all asthmatic patients to make sure they do not have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If these are diagnosed, they can easily be prevented and controlled, thus lowering the risk of heart disease later in life.

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Asthma: More Than Just A Lung Disease