Infections increase the risk of heart disease in adults

heart surgeryHeart surgery.Photo : Terje Bendiksby / SCANPIX

A study shows that adults admitted to hospital for serious infections such as pneumonia, have a risk factor for heart disease six times higher than average.


‘Serious adulthood infections are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,’ said one of the authors of the study, Professor Scott Montgomery, who heads a clinical epidemiological group at Örebro University.

Researchers specifically point out the diseases pneumonia and sepsis. Sepsis, popularly called blood poisoning, is an over activation of the immune system as a result of  infection, and can lead to life-threatening organ failure.

The danger is greatest during the first year, but also two to three years after the infection, patients still run twice the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology on Wednesday.

Followed closely

The study included 236,739 men born between 1952 and 1956, all of whom underwent thorough medical examinations at the age of 18 as part of their military service. The men were  closely followed by the researchers.

During the follow-up period, just over 46,700 of them, almost 20%, received their first diagnosis of heart disease. Of these, nearly 10,000 had been hospitalised for pneumonia or sepsis.

According to researchers, such infections cause a 6.33 higher risk of cardiovascular disease during the first year after infection.

Highest risk

‘Our findings indicate that the risk of cardiovascular disease, including strokes, increased after hospitalisation for sepsis and pneumonia,’ said scientist, Cecilia Berg at Örebro University. She led the work of the study.

The researchers also investigated other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and obesity, little physical exercise, and a poor upbringing, but none of them gave the same risk of cardiovascular disease as severe infections.

‘Traditional risk factors are still important, but infections constitute the primary danger for a period,’ said Professor Montgomery.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today