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‘Persistent asthma’ linked to build-up of plaque in arteries – study finds stroke risk

The body is made up of an intricate vascular system that ensures that blood can rush to and fro between the heart and brain. The most vital veins supplying the brain are known as the carotid arteries, located on either side of the neck. Any obstruction to these blood vessels can have life-threatening consequences, like stroke.

According to a new study, persistent asthma could raise the risk of stroke due to an excess build-up of plaque in the carotid arteries.

The lead author of the research, Matthew C. Tattersall, assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said: “Many physicians and patients don’t realise that asthmatic airway inflammation may affect the arteries.

“[So] for people with persistent asthma addressing risk factors for cardiovascular disease may be really helpful.

“The presence and burden of carotid artery plaque is a strong predictor of future cardiovascular events.”

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The research, published in the journal of the American Heart Association, identified a higher prevalence of plaque building in the large arteries on the left and right side of the neck carrying blood to the brain in patients with asthma.

The team discovered the link between asthma and atherosclerosis after analysing health data for 5,029 adults, aged around 61 years.

All participants were categorised as having persistent asthma, intermittent asthma or not having asthma.

The analysis revealed that carotid plaque was present in 67 percent of participants with persistent asthma and 49.5 percent of patients with intermittent asthma.

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Patients with intermittent asthma had an average of two carotid plaques, compared with one plaque affecting patients without asthma.

Professor Tattersall noted: “This analysis tells us that the increased risk for carotid plaques among people with persistent asthma is probably affected by multiple factors.

“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.

“We know that higher levels of inflammation lead to negative effects on the cardiovascular system.”

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Science has consistently shown that chronic, low-grade inflammation can turn into a silent killer that contributes to cardiovascular disease.

It does so by contributing to the build-up of plaque, known as atherosclerosis.

What’s more, inflammation is associated with a higher risk of plaque rupturing and triggering cardiac events.

In light of these findings, people with chronic asthmatic attacks are advised to eat healthy food, be physically active, avoid cigarette smoking, and lose weight if needed.

How does asthma develop?

You’re more likely to develop asthma if it runs in your family, but not all cases of the respiratory condition are inherited.

Having a severe respiratory infection as a child, an allergic condition, or being exposed to industrial chemicals could trigger the onset of the disease.

The Mayo Clinic states: “While there’s no way to prevent asthma, you and your doctor can design a step-by-step plan for lining up your condition and preventing asthma attacks.

“With your doctor and health care team, write a detailed plan for taking medications and managing an asthma attack.”

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