Pneumonia can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death due to heart disease for numerous years. The study which examined the association found within the first month of pneumonia diagnosis, the risk of cardiovascular events increases four-fold. After the first month, the risk remains at 1.5 higher, compared to those who never had pneumonia, and the risk can last for years.
Lead researcher Dr. Sachin Yende said, “A single episode of pneumonia could have long-term consequences several months or years later.”
Pneumonia is a serious complication of the flu, with seniors being the high risk group. Not only will the flu and pneumonia vaccine offer greater protection against the flu and pneumonia, but it can also reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, said, “As patients hospitalized with pneumonia are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and death, evaluating them for modifiable risk factors and improved use of effective prevention strategies, such as pneumonia vaccine, may be warranted.”
The research team analyzed data from nearly 6,000 people over the age of 65 from the Cardiovascular Health Study, and an additional 16,000 people aged 45 to 64 from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.
Over the 10-year follow-up period, 591 people in the first group had pneumonia, 206 had a heart attack, stroke, or died. In the other study group, 680 cases of pneumonia were reported, along with 112 heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.
Yende concluded, “The risk of heart disease or stroke with pneumonia was similar to the risk seen for other known risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking.”
Related Reading: Is Pneumonia Contagious?
Pneumonia increases risk of sudden cardiac arrest: Previous study
An alternative study found that pneumonia increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. There is a well-known link between pneumonia and an increased risk of cardiac arrest during hospital stays. Lead author, Dr. Gordon E. Carr, said, “The patient in the classic [progressive slide] begins as a healthy individual, develops pneumonia or another life-threatening infection, and then passes through a series of syndromes that we think we can recognize.” Carr noted that many patients bypass the process and deteriorate quite quickly.
Carr added, “We’re concerned that not all patients follow this pathway. We wonder, along with other investigators, whether some patients with pneumonia develop a compensative severe infection and not other severe syndromes, and whether the state of compensative severe infection yields abruptly to cardiopulmonary collapse.”
The research examined cardiac arrest events in over 500 hospitals and found that of 44,416 cardiopulmonary arrests, which occurred within 72 hours of hospitalization, pneumonia was found in 5,367 cases (12.1 percent).
Carr said, “The striking result was that of all patients with pneumonia, overt hypotension was the presumed immediate cause only 44 percent of the time; actually, arrhythmia was present most frequently. Our study found a compelling signal that a significant portion of pneumonia patients who suffer a cardiac arrest in the hospital do so abruptly,” he said. “We found that 56 percent of cases of cardiac arrest among these patients were not caused or preceded by hypotension, and almost 40 percent happened outside of the ICU.”
Tips to prevent pneumonia
- Get vaccinated for the flu and pneumonia
- Always wash your hands
- Don’t smoke
- Keep good health habits – eat well, exercise, get annual check-ups, be mindful of previous respiratory infections
By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of pneumonia and, in turn, better protect your heart, too.