Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide, and many healthcare systems have declared that preventing them is a priority.
Understanding what causes and contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases is important to preventing and treating the illnesses, experts say.
Previous studies have made a connection between inflammatory diseases such as bowel disorders and heart disorders, but never in a population as large as the Spanish study.
Scientists believe mechanisms involved in inflammation and metabolism interact to promote cardiovascular diseases in people with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases such as bowel disorders. An immune-mediated disease is one that involves a faulty immune response.
To try to understand the link between inflammatory disorders and heart disease, Spanish researchers looked at the medical records of 991,546 people with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel diseases.
The team from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute and Primary Care Research Institute Jordi Gol published their work in the journal Heart. The title was “The Association Between Chronic Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Diseases and Cardiovascular Risk.”
“We wanted to determine whether the risk of suffering a coronary heart disease, stroke, or overall mortality was increased in people suffering autoimmune inflammatory diseases, including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or ankylosing spondylitis, among other illnesses, and establish the incidence of each pathology,” Dr. María Grau, a researcher at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, said in a news release. She was senior author of the study.
The team found that the risk of people with bowel diseases developing a heart disorder was 18 percent higher than that of the general population. The risk of people with a connective tissue disorder such as lupus developing a cardiovascular disease was 38 percent higher than that of the population at large, the researchers said.
In addition, both groups of patients were at a 20 percent higher risk of having a stroke, the team reported.
Another finding was that the risk of death among people with a bowel disease was 64 percent higher than among the general population. The risk of death among people with a connective tissue disorder was 30 percent higher than the overall population’s, the team added.
Previous studies had shown an association between chronic autoimmune inflammatory diseases and cardiovascular risk. The large size of the patient population in the Spanish study underscored the connection.
“It is believed that the increased risk of cardiovascular problems and mortality in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus is due to the interaction of inflammation, metabolic factors, therapy, and disease-related factors,” Grau said. “Therefore, developing new tools for predicting cardiovascular events which incorporate autoimmune inflammatory disease activity biomarkers could help to reduce the incidence of these events.”