Harvard Heart Letter

Adult asthma linked to higher risk of heart disease

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People who develop asthma as adults may face a higher-than-average risk of heart disease, according to a study published online Aug. 24, 2016, by the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Although this chronic lung condition usually first shows up during childhood, some people develop asthma as adults. Adult or late-onset asthma is often triggered by air pollution and tends to be harder to manage than childhood-onset asthma.

The study, which included more than 1,200 people, was designed to investigate issues related to sleep, breathing, and heart health. People with late-onset asthma were 57% more likely to suffer a heart-related event than those without asthma. In contrast, people whose asthma began during childhood had similar rates of heart-related events as those without the lung disease.

The findings suggest but do not prove that asthma affects heart disease risk. Although the researchers were able to account for some factors that might bias the results, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the study did not collect information on the participants' exposure to air pollution. However, other studies have noted links between air pollution, poor lung function, and heart disease.