Hospitalized for Pneumonia? Watch Out for Your Heart

Pneumonia tied to increased risk of cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Heart risks can show up in some surprising places.

Older adults who were hospitalized for pneumonia were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD), a new study found. Patients’ risk was highest in the 30 days after they left the hospital.

The authors of this study noted that being hospitalized for pneumonia was tied to the same heart risks as smoking or high blood pressure.

“Hospitalization for pneumonia is associated with increased short-term and long-term risk of CVD, suggesting that pneumonia may be an important risk factor for CVD,” wrote the authors of this study.

Patients can work to keep their hearts healthy by not smoking, exercising and keeping a healthy diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Patients should also try to maintain a healthy weight and watch their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the CDC notes.

Vicente F. Corrales-Medina, MD, of the University of Ottawa in Canada, led this study. The research team used data from two other long-term studies — the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study (ARIC). The data included more than 21,000 patients who were 45 to 65 at the time they were enrolled in one of the studies. Each patient with pneumonia was matched with two patients who had not had pneumonia (called control patients).

In the two study groups, heart attack and stroke were the most common cause of CVD death after pneumonia. Patients with pneumonia had four times the risk of developing CVD in the first 30 days after the pneumonia — compared to the control patients. This risk remained 1.5 times higher in subsequent years.

CVD is a major health concern in the US. Past research has tied major infections to an increased risk of CVD. This was the first study to look specifically at pneumonia.

Dr. Corrales-Medina and team said they chose pneumonia because respiratory diseases are known to increase CVD risk.

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs, usually caused by viruses or bacteria. Typical symptoms include a cough, chest pain, fever and trouble breathing.

Past research has found that infections may cause inflammatory changes in blood vessels. Widespread inflammation in the body is known to increase the risk of CVD.

“Moreover, in our analyses, the magnitude of risk for CVD associated with pneumonia was similar or higher compared with the risk of CVD associated with traditional risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, and hypertension," Dr. Corrales-Medina and colleagues wrote. "Thus, our results suggest that pneumonia is an important risk factor for CVD."

This study was published Jan. 20 in JAMA.

The CHS study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and funding from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Aging. The ARIC study received grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Several authors disclosed potential conflicts of interest for consulting, giving expert testimony or grant funding from companies like Biogen Idec, Bristol-Myers Squibb/Pfizer and Janssen. These companies manufacture medications or equipment used in the treatment of pneumonia or CVD.

Review Date: 
January 20, 2015
Last Updated:
January 22, 2015