Cardiovascular risk starts earlier than researchers thought
Children with asthma, hay fever and eczema have roughly twice the rate of high blood pressure and cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart disease at a surprisingly early age, according to a study of more than 13,000 children.
“This study shows that cardiovascular risk starts far earlier in life than we ever realized,” said Jonathan Silverberg, associate professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the study. “Given how common these allergic diseases are in childhood, it suggests we need to screen these children more aggressively to make sure we are not missing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There may be an opportunity to modify their lifestyles and turn this risk around.”
Asthma, hay fever and eczema—increasingly common children in this country—are associated with chronic inflammation, impaired physical activity, sleep difficulties and significant morbidity. Until now, however, little has been known about the cardiovascular risk factors in children with these diseases.
Silverberg and colleagues examined the association of the three allergic conditions and cardiovascular risk factors using data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, including 13,275 children from all 50 states. More than 16 percent of the children had hay fever; asthma occurred in 14 percent and eczema in 12 percent.
The study controlled for obesity, and still children with allergies had a much higher risk of developing high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Researchers say inflammation occurring in asthma and hay fever might contribute to the higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Another factor: Children with profound asthma are typically more sedentary, which may drive up blood pressure and cholesterol.