Infections could be a ‘trigger’ for heart attack, stroke

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Diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are well-known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In a study from the University of Minnesota, scientists found infections could be a ‘trigger’ for heart attack and stroke too.

They linked infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections to an increased risk of having a coronary event, such as a heart attack, or stroke within the next three months.

In the study, the team examined patients tracked over multiple years in four U.S. cities.

They looked at 1,312 patients who had a heart attack or other type of coronary event, and 727 other patients who had an ischemic stroke, the kind caused by a blood clot.

The team found among the heart disease patients, about 37% had some type of infection within the previous three months. Among stroke patients, it was nearly 30%.

Infections substantially increased the odds of having a heart attack or stroke compared to a year or two earlier in the same group of patients, and those odds were highest in the first two weeks following the infection.

Infections generally trigger an inflammatory reaction in the body. The body triggers its white cell production to help ward off an infection, but that process also increases the stickiness of cells called platelets.

This encourages the formation of clots that could block the flow of blood to the heart or brain.

The infection appears to be the trigger for changing the finely tuned balance in the blood and making us more prone to thrombosis, or clot formation.

The team says it’s a trigger for the blood vessels to get blocked up and puts people at higher risk of serious events like heart attack and stroke.

The study raises questions about whether patients hospitalized for infections should also begin receiving treatment to protect them from heart disease and stroke.

Urinary tract infection, or UTI, was the most common type of infection reported in the study, followed by pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Skin and blood infections also were reported.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about artificial sweeteners linked to higher risk of heart disease, and results showing people who have the lowest heart disease and stroke risks.

The study was conducted by Dr. Kamakshi Lakshminarayan et al and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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