Persistent asthma may cause buildup of artery plaque, raising heart disease risk

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Asthma is a respiratory condition that impacts an estimated 262 millionTrusted Source people worldwide. It is characterized by inflammation of the small airways, leading to symptoms including shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.

Research from 2016Trusted Source suggests that asthma may play a role in atherosclerosisTrusted Source — the buildup of plaque, or fatty deposits, on artery walls. Still, the associations between asthma and heart disease are unclear.

Yet a 2020 studyTrusted Source found that people with persistent asthma may have up to 1.5 times higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib) than those without the respiratory condition.

Recently, a new study found that participants with persistent asthma have a greater likelihood of plaque buildup in their carotid arteries than those without asthma.

The findings persisted even after the scientists adjusted for demographic and lifestyle factors. Moreover, those with persistent asthma also had higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source. For the study, scientists hypothesized that persistent asthma could be associated with an increased buildup of plaque in the carotid arteriesTrusted Source — the large vessels that supply blood to the brain.

Research from 2021 suggests that plaque buildup in these arteries strongly predicts future cardiovascular events.

To investigate their hypothesis, the scientists collected data from participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)Trusted Source study. The MESA study includes a large, ethnically diverse cohort of 6,814 adults who did not have cardiovascular disease at the time of enrollment. The research team examined the data from 5,029 adults in the MESA who had cardiovascular disease risk factors and carotid ultrasound data in their records.

At the start of the MESA study, participants also had blood levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP)Trusted Source measurements taken. IL-6 and CRP are inflammatory markers in the blood.

The scientists divided the participants into either persistent asthma, intermittent asthma, or no asthma groups. The researchers defined persistent asthma as asthma requiring daily use of controlling medications. Participants in the intermittent group had a history of asthma but did not use controlling medications daily.

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