Young adults with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at greater risk of having a heart attack. Because of that, IBD should be considered an independent risk factor for heart disease.
Muhammad S. Panhwar, MD, lead author of a study with that finding, will present his work “Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease” on March 11 at the ACC’s 67th Annual Scientific Session in Orlando, Florida.
IBD patients have chronic inflammation in their intestines, which could affect body systems other than the digestive.
While the risk of developing abnormal veins in IBD is well-established, whether IBD patients also are at risk for heart diseases still remains unclear.
Panhwar’s team sought to investigate the heart attack rate in IBD patients.
To do so, researchers used a large database that gathers medical records from 26 national healthcare systems in the U.S. Out of 17.5 million patient records, they identified 211,870 IBD cases (ages 18-65) diagnosed between 2014 and 2017.
Researchers found the IBD patients were prone to have diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, in comparison to non-IBD individuals.
Heart attacks happened two times more frequently in IBD cases compared to controls. The tendency remained after researchers had adjusted the data for age, race, sex and traditional heart disease risk factors. IBD patients were about 23 percent more likely to experience a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
“Younger patients [aged 18 to 24] had about nine times the risk of a heart attack compared to their peers in the same age group [who didn’t have IBD], and this risk continued to decline with age,” Panhwar said in a press release. Pabhwar is a resident in internal medicine at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Heart attack risk for IBD patients older than 40 was similar for both sexes.
However, when researchers examined statistics for female IBD patients younger than 40 they reported a higher heart attack risk than same-aged men. The team believes this is due to the fact that women and younger patients have higher levels of disease-related inflammation.
These results mean that IBD should be considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and “clinicians should take seriously any symptoms suggestive of heart disease, such as chest pain, in patients with IBD, especially in younger patients,” Panhwar said.
One source of bias in this study is the database didn’t allow scientists to exclude patients with a previous history of heart attack; so, these individuals were more likely to be at elevated risk for another heart attack from the outset.
So far, this investigative work constitutes one of the largest to assess a relationship between IBD and heart disease risk.