According to a new research, the risk of a cardiovascular disease was greater for up to three weeks after an infection in older adults. Smoking cigarettes, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise are all known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. So are conditions like elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
But now a new research adds to that list. Researchers discovered that in older adults, infection increased the risk of a coronary event over the next three months.
Risk increases up to three months
The research indicating the risk factors was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers observed the data of 1,312 cases of coronary heart disease. And 727 cases of ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot. The average age was 75 years at the time of the event.
The risk of having a heart disease was higher in the 90 days after the infection, compared to 1-2 years earlier in the same patients. The common infections were urinary tract infections, and pneumonia or other respiratory infections. Blood and skin infections also occurred.
People in the research had some other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Like the family history of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol, greater age, smoking, and being male.
“People who are already at risk develop the acute infection event which triggers the stroke or heart attack,” said Dr. Kevin Schwarz. He is a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. He was not directly in the study. This study also compared inpatient and outpatient infections.
“The risk was high in hospitalized patients than those who were treated as an outpatient,” said Dr. Howard Weintraub. He is a professor of medicine and clinical director of the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Health. He was not involved in the research.
Infection leads to inflammation
Some study proposes that the inflammatory response of a body to an infection can cause the clot formation in the arteries. This clot can block the blood flow to the brain or heart.
The researchers write that infections which require hospitalization are often more severe, that may cause greater inflammation. This may explain the higher risk of inpatients than for outpatients. But other hospitalization factors may be involved, like medicine changes or extended bed rest.
He said the changed medicines are mostly high blood pressure or cholesterol drugs, which can interact with antibiotics. The recent study fits with research published this year by Schwartz and colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers found that acute influenza increased the heart attack risk for seven days after infection. This research was not bigger than the JAHA study, which observed an increased risk for up to 90 days.
Weintraub pointed out, though, that in the new research “within the first two weeks, there was a fall in the risk of coronary heart disease or ischemic stroke. ”Research has also exposed a connection between cardiovascular disease and inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
Some infections are preventable
Weintraub said that doctors treating patients for infections should look at their overall health. “Effort should be made to make certain that people don’t go from the hospital without their risk factors being effectively controlled,” he said.
This may mean a visit to a physician or cardiologist within 2-4 weeks after the infection to resume their regular treatments. This is mainly appropriate for hospitalized people.
In some cases, an infection may remind patients and their doctors to take better care of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. “It’s very important for persons to get their vaccines, largely when they are at risk of difficulties from infections,” he said.
He added that those who are at risk should take other steps to avoid getting pneumonia or flu. For example, washing hands frequently and avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick.
The bottom line
In older adults, the risk of a having a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke increased for up to 90 days after a infection.
The risk was even higher during the first 2-4 weeks and for patients who were hospitalized.
Staying up-to-date on pneumonia and flu vaccinations can lower the risk, as can controlling your cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular risk factors.