Asthma is a respiratory condition that can cause trouble breathing when airways become inflamed, often due to allergies.
This type of chronic inflammation can contribute to a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
In a study from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, scientists found adults with persistent asthma may experience nearly twice the amount of plaque buildup in major arteries leading to the brain as people without asthma, raising their risk for a stroke.
The study also found higher levels of inflammation in people with asthma, compared to those without the condition.
When a plaque in the arteries ruptures, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The vessels that carry blood through the neck to the brain are called the carotid arteries.
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. each year than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined.
In the study, the team analyzed health data for a select group of adults who enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) from 2000 to 2002.
The 5,029 participants included in the analysis were an average of 61 years old and were free from heart disease at study enrollment, but they had some heart disease risk factors, including being overweight, smoking, having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
Participants were categorized as having intermittent, persistent, or no asthma. Ultrasound tests measured plaque in the carotid arteries on both sides of the neck, and blood tests measured inflammation.
The team found plaque was present in the carotid arteries of 67% of 109 people with persistent asthma, 49.5% of the 388 with intermittent asthma, and 50.5% of 4,532 people with no asthma.
Participants with persistent asthma had nearly twice the amount of plaque as those with intermittent or no asthma.
Compared to participants without asthma, those with persistent asthma also had higher levels of inflammation.
This analysis suggests that the increased risk for carotid plaques among people with persistent asthma is probably affected by multiple factors.
The team says participants who have persistent asthma had elevated levels of inflammation in their blood, even though their asthma was treated with medication, which highlights the inflammatory features of asthma.
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The study was conducted by Matthew C. Tattersall et al and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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