Asthma May Put the Heart in Peril

Heart attack risk may rise for those who have asthma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Asthma and heart attack may share similar symptoms, such as chest tightness and shortness of breath. The link between the two, however, may go beyond that. Asthma may increase the odds of having a heart attack.

Past research has already tied asthma to a heightened risk for heart disease. And two new studies may add to that potential link.

These studies found that people with active asthma may face significantly higher odds of having a heart attack than those who do not have asthma.

One report was authored by Matthew C. Tattersall, DO, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, along with his colleagues.

Dr. Tattersall and team followed 6,792 patients. They were taking part in a study that tracked the early signs of heart disease.

After 10 years, patients who had asthma and needed daily medications were 60 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or related condition than people without asthma. Asthma is a long-term lung condition that inflames and narrows the airways.

The researchers found that asthma patients in the study had higher levels of inflammatory markers. These markers included C-reactive protein, which is produced in the liver. This protein level goes up when there is inflammation in the body.

Signs of inflammation also included raised levels of fibrinogen, another protein formed in the liver. This protein is essential for blood clot formation. Rising fibrinogen levels can be a warning sign of inflammation.

This study included a diverse population of patients. About 28 percent were white; 28 percent were black; 22 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were Chinese-American. About 43 percent were women. Their average age was 62.

In related but separate research in Minnesota, researchers found that asthma patients had about a 70 percent higher risk of heart attack than those without asthma. Those identified as having “active asthma” were twice as likely to have a heart attack than those asthma patients who were not showing any symptoms.

“Active” meant that patients were having documented symptoms, using medication or paying visits to health care providers for asthma treatment within the past year.

Duk-Won Bang, MD, research fellow in the Asthma Epidemiology Unit of the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in Rochester, led this study.

The study authors compared 543 patients who had a heart attack with 543 who did not have one.

The average patient age in the Minnesota study was 67. Women made up 44 percent of the patients, and 95 percent were white.

“Chest discomfort or pain can be confused as a symptom of asthma, but because asthma increases the risk of heart attack and treatments for each are quite different, patients need to take chest pain and other symptoms of heart attack seriously and seek prompt treatment,” said Young J. Juhn, MD, professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mayo Clinic and senior author of the Minnesota study, in a press release.

These studies were presented Nov. 16 and 17 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago.

The Minnesota study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the United States, the NIH Relief Fund, and the Scholarly Clinician Award from the Mayo Foundation. The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health funded part of the Wisconsin study. Conflicts of interest information was not available.

Review Date: 
November 14, 2014
Last Updated:
November 17, 2014