Adult Asthma and Heart Disease--What You Need to Know
Last updated: March 2022
Asthma is, as you probably know, a chronic condition that affects breathing and the respiratory system. On the other hand, heart disease affects a different system--the cardiovascular one. This body system includes the heart and your larger circulatory system that carries blood between the heart, lungs, and all of the other organs of the body. So, what is this article about, and what could they possibly have in common?
That's a question researchers have been trying to answer for the past few years. It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is some kind of link between adult asthma and the risk of heart disease. Let's take a closer look.
Asthma and heart disease
Asthma affects as many as 25 million people in the U.S.1 That's almost 8 out of every 100 adults. Plus, asthma rates have been increasing over the last 4 decades in all age, sex, and racial groups. However, in adults, asthma is more common in women than it is in men.2
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Americans, although in the last decade the death rate has decreased significantly.3 However, there is no doubt that both heart disease and asthma are costly in terms of both productivity and medical costs.1,3
How asthma and heart disease are linked
So what is the connection between these two diseases? Experts aren't entirely sure at this point, despite a number of studies looking at the issue. One theory is that inflammation may play a part.4 Asthma is a disease characterized by inflammation of the airways. Some experts wonder if this results in inflammation of the blood vessels as well, leading to heart disease. But we do not know of a direct cause and effect link between asthma and heart disease as yet. Clearly, more study is needed to determine the exact link between these two chronic health challenges.
What we do know?
A study that included 6792 individuals that were a mix of white, Chinese, African-American, and Hispanic individuals revealed a significant increase in risk of heart disease for certain patients with asthma. In fact, in people with persistent asthma, the increased risk was as high as 59%. People with only intermittent asthma did not show any increase in risk for heart disease.4
In 2017, an even larger study was conducted to further examine this issue. Researchers examined more than 600,000 patient records in clinical research databases. Their results supported earlier findings that there is an increased risk of heart disease in people with asthma.5 The risk was slightly higher in women, not surprisingly, since adult asthma is more common and generally more severe in women than in men, as stated above.
What this means for you
Medical experts consistently emphasize that knowing the risk for heart disease is higher in people with adult asthma means prevention and early detection is essential.4,5 Following heart healthy practices is something you can start doing today.
Paying attention to any new or different symptoms is also crucial. Chest pain is not a typical asthma symptom. It might be confusing at first to distinguish a difference between chest pain and chest tightness, which is a symptom of asthma. If you notice any new chest discomfort, play it safe and consult with your doctor.
In other words, take charge of your health. Heart disease is not inevitable, even if you have severe, persistent adult asthma. Take steps today to lower your risk.
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