Getting asthma as an adult may put a woman at greater risk for developing serious heart problems or having a stroke later in life, according to a report published in the June issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.
The study from Emory University in Atlanta, GA found that women who develop asthma as adults are two times more likely to have strokes, heart attacks or die from coronary heart disease than women without asthma or women who developed asthma as a child. Men with asthma at any age do not show an increased risk for stroke or heart problems, according to the report.
“Given the present frequency of asthma in the general US population, and increasing trends in the magnitude of this condition, these studies remain of considerable public importance,” says Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at University of Massachusetts Medical School in a review of the study.
More than 14,000 adults participated in the 12- year study that tracked the participants’ development of heart disease, stroke and asthma along with other health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, physical activity, emphysema and smoking status.
Adult-onset asthma was slightly more common in women (3.4%) than men (2.0%). Men and women with asthma were more likely to have smoked and to have diabetes, high blood pressure, bronchitis and emphysema than people without asthma.
Previous studies have linked asthma, especially in women, to other cardiovascular problems like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This is the first study to look at how adult and childhood asthma separately influence the development of coronary disease and stroke, conditions caused by damage or clots in blood vessels of the heart or brain.
Researchers do not know why women are more prone to develop strokes or cardiovascular diseases after adult-onset asthma or how having asthma leads to atherosclerosis. They suspect that chronic inflammation is involved and that higher estrogen levels in women may over stimulate the immune response to cause excessive inflammation within the lungs, heart or brain.