If you have asthma or allergies, you may be more likely to develop heart disease, and some medications may increase or lower that risk, a new review of clinical trials and lab research shows.
"Many people think of asthma as a disease of the lungs, but there's an important link between asthma and cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart diseases, [high blood pressure] and more," said corresponding study author Guo-Ping Shi of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"I've studied this area for more than 20 years, and the evidence we see from clinical trials, as well as basic research, points to allergic asthma as an important risk factor that clinicians and patients need to be aware of when considering personal risk," he added.
The review describes clinical studies showing the link between asthma and such health threats as coronary and aortic heart diseases; narrowed arteries that reduce blood flow to the limbs; stroke; heart failure; and other cardiac complications.
The report noted that the build up of specific types of inflammatory cells in the lungs, heart and blood vessels may explain the association between asthma and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The study, published May 16 in Nature Cardiovascular Research, also outlined clinical studies that examined links between heart disease and seasonal allergies, allergic eczema, and severe food and drug allergies.
"Observations from these studies suggest that allergic reactions besides asthma are also significant risk factors for CVD," Shi said in a hospital news release.
His team also examined how asthma medications might affect heart disease risk.
Inhaled albuterol (often used to treat acute asthma attacks), inhaled corticosteroids (such as fluticasone propionate and budesonide), and leukotriene modifiers (such as montelukast) appeared to reduce heart disease risk, according to the study.
But oral and intravenous corticosteroids (such as prednisone) appeared to increase the risk. And there were mixed results for anti-asthma antibodies (such as omalizumab), with one study finding increased risk and others showing reduced risk or no effect.
"Based on these previous studies, we can now ask: What is the next direction we need to pursue? What are the weakest points that we can focus on? By connecting work across basic research and clinical studies, we can start to see the bigger picture and think about the implications for patient care," Shi said.