People suffering from asthma who have to take medication every day to control it may face an increased risk of heart attack, new research suggests.
And a second study confirms that having active asthma also increases your heart risk.
"People with asthma should make an effort to optimally control their asthma symptoms, because proper asthma control not only improves asthma symptoms and quality of life but also reduces the risk of heart attack," said Dr. Young Juhn, a pediatrics professor at the Mayo Clinic who was lead researcher on one of the studies.
Juhn and his colleagues studied 543 heart attack patients, comparing them with 543 people who didn't have a heart attack.
After accounting for heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol, they found that patients with active asthma had about a 70 percent higher risk of heart attack than those without asthma. Inactive asthma, however, was not associated with an increased risk of heart attack.
"People with asthma and their caregivers need to take symptoms for heart attack, such as chest pain or discomfort, seriously since chest discomfort or pain can be mistaken as a symptom of asthma," Juhn said.
In the other study, a research team led by Dr. Matthew Tattersall, an assistant professor of medicine in the cardiology division at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, found that people with asthma who take daily medications for it were 60 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, compared to those without asthma.
For the study, the researchers followed almost 6,800 people for 10 years.
"Physicians should do all they can to control every other modifiable cardiovascular risk factor in patients with asthma," Tattersall said in a statement.
Both studies were to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the same factors that increase the risk for asthma also increase the risk for heart attacks -- namely smoking and air pollution.
Both heart attack and asthma can result from continued exposure to smoking and poisons in the air, he said. "It's like jogging behind a bus," he said.
Not smoking is the best thing you can do to prevent both heart attacks and asthma, Horovitz added.
Earlier studies have shown that asthma increases the risk for both heart attack and stroke, said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a cardiology professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"The way asthma increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes requires further study, but it may involve chronic inflammation, failure to recognize early heart disease in people with asthma or the bad effects of the medications used to treat asthma," he said.
Although the new research showed an association between asthma and increased heart attack risk, a cause-and-effect link was not proven.