According to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adults living with persistent asthma may be at a higher risk for heart attack or stroke due to the accumulation of excessive plaque in their carotid arteries.
The researchers used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) to investigate the link between asthma and carotid artery plaque. MESA is a long-term study of almost 7000 adults in 6 locations in the US (Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Los Angeles County, CA; Forsyth County, NC; and St. Paul, MN).
The study examined health information from 5029 participants, with an average age of 61, who had potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease and had undergone carotid ultrasound scans. The sample was diverse; 26% African American, 23% Hispanic, and 12% Chinese. In addition, more than half of the group was female.
The group of people was divided into 3 categories: those with persistent asthma, those with intermittent asthma, and those without asthma. The group with persistent asthma had 109 people who took medicine every day to control their asthma. The group with intermittent asthma had 388 people but did not take medicine daily. The rest did not have asthma.
The study found that 67% of people with persistent asthma and less than half (49.5%) of people with intermittent asthma had plaque buildup in their carotid arteries. On average, people with persistent asthma had 2 buildups of plaque, and people with intermittent asthma had 1 buildup of plaque.
They also found that Carotid plaque was present in a little more than half (50.5%) of the participants without asthma, with an average of about 1 carotid plaque.
Furthermore, the study found that people with persistent asthma were more likely to have plaque in their carotid artery than people without asthma. This was true even after considering factors such as age, sex, race, weight, other health conditions, medications, and smoking habits.
According to the researchers, people with persistent asthma have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies than people without asthma.
“Many physicians and patients don’t realize that asthmatic airway inflammation may affect the arteries, so for people with persistent asthma, addressing risk factors for cardiovascular disease may be really helpful,” said lead study author Matthew C. Tattersall, assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.