Within the last few years, there has been a lot of research on the potential link between infection and heart disease. Now, a new study shows that the more infections you have throughout your life, the more likely you are to die from heart disease. The researchers, from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, looked at more than 570 people with heart disease. They tested their blood for the common bacteria and viruses to see if they had evidence of past infection or exposure.
They found that the number of infections was directly related to dying from heart disease or stroke. People with 3 or less of these infections had a death rate of 3%. The death rate jumped to 10%, however, for those exposed to 4 or 5 infections, and to 15% for those with 6 or more infections. In people with advanced hardening of the arteries, 20% of those who tested positive for at least 6 infections died during the study period compared to just 7% of those with 3 or less infections.
"We showed a significant association between the number of infections to which someone has been exposed and the extent of hardening of the arteries in the heart, neck, and legs," says study leader Hans J. Rupprecht, MD. He points out that the people already had heart disease at the beginning of the study. Thus, it's hard to prove the exact nature of the association between infection and heart disease.
According to the researchres, the infection/heart disease link is probably a result of immune reactions. Exposure to multiple infections causes inflammation of the blood vessels, which, over time, can lead to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.