Last Updated on August 25, 2016 at 1:11 PM
Health In Focus
  • Adult onset asthma is when the asthma symptoms appear and diagnosed in adults who are over 20 years of age
  • Link between adult/late onset asthma and heart disease risk identified
  • Physicians should pay attention to heart disease risk factors in late-onset asthma patients

People who develop asthma as adults (adult onset asthma) are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke.

You might think that asthma starts in the childhood  But it's quite common for people to be diagnosed with asthma when they're an adult. This condition is known as "adult or late onset asthma" and women are more likely to develop asthma after the age 20.
Adult-Onset Asthma Linked to Increased Heart Disease and Stroke Risk

Research team headed by Matthew C. Tattersall, followed 1269 adults of average age 47 without heart disease history for over 14 years.

The average age of asthma diagnosis in the late-onset group (defined in this study as beginning at age 18 or older) was 39.5 years vs. 8.9 years in the early-onset group.

At the start of the study, 166 participants had asthma out of which 111 cases were late-onset and 55 people were early-onset. Participants chosen for the study are part of the ongoing Wisconsin Sleep Cohort that begun in 1988 to investigate sleep, respiratory and cardiovascular health.

During the course of the study period, researchers tracked cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, angina, cardiac revascularization and cardiovascular death. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes and obesity that might bias results were accounted.

Study Findings

  • People with late-onset asthma were 57% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event than non-asthmatics.
  • People with late onset asthma compared to non-asthmatics were more likely to be females (67 percent vs 44 percent) and to have a higher body-mass index (BMI, 32.2 vs 29.4 kg/m2).
  • People with early-onset asthma had no difference in cardiovascular disease events compared to people without asthma

Difference Between Childhood Asthma and Adult Onset Asthma

  • Asthma symptoms in childhood may come and go, but asthma symptoms in adults may be continuous.
  • Lower lung capacity in adults may lead to misdiagnosis of adult onset asthma.

Causes of Adult Onset Asthma

Symptoms of Adult Onset Asthma

  • Dry cough - especially at night
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
"Though it's usually not recognized as such, there are several different types of asthma, each with some unique features," said Matthew C. Tattersall, D.O., M.S., study lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. "We looked at the type known as late-onset asthma, which tends to be more severe and more difficult to control with medicines than asthma that begins in childhood."

According to the research team,

Late onset asthma

a) Is difficult to control

B) Triggered by air pollution that leads to decline in lung function

Tattersall said "Doctors should be monitoring for high blood pressure and cholesterol closely in these patients and be aggressive in modifying any risk factors,"

Limitations of the Study
  • Most study participants were white
  • Information about key factors such as air pollution exposure and stressful life events, were not available

Ways to Manage Adult Onset Asthma

Late onset asthma patients can improve their chances of keeping a healthy heart and diminish their risk of stroke by following a healthy lifestyle -
  • Regular exercising
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a normal weight
The research is published in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

References :
  1. Late-onset asthma linked to increased heart disease, stroke risk - (
  2. Adult Onset Asthma - (
  3. Types of asthma - (
Source: Medindia

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