Hospitalization due to pneumonia could increase a person's risk of heart attack or stroke in the following weeks and months, even in patients with no previous history of cardiovascular disease, according to a study by Canadian researchers which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers analyzed health records of more than 3,800 people enrolled in US community health studies, with one group aged 45-64 years and the other over 65 years. When they compared more than 1,200 pneumonia patients to some 2,500 control patients of the same age over a period of 10 years, they found the heart risks were highest in the first weeks and months after a bout of pneumonia.
The study said, "In the group aged 65 and older, a pneumonia patient was four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in the first 30 days following the infection. In the tenth year, they were a little less than twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease. While, in the younger group, the risk of cardiovascular disease was 2.4 times higher in the first 90 days after hospitalization for pneumonia, but the risk was no longer significant after a period of two years."
Lead author of the study, Vicente Corrales-Medina, said, "The study provides yet another reason to do everything we can to prevent pneumonia from occurring in the community, through vaccination and basic hand hygiene, for example. Second, once pneumonia has occurred, physicians should develop a care plan understanding that these patients are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in the weeks, months and years following their recovery from this infection."
Researchers are carrying out further studies to determine why the body may be more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease after a bout of pneumonia.