Pneumonia a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

February 23, 2015

Hospitalization for pneumonia is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in middle-aged and older adults with no history of heart disease, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Presenting his findings at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in February, lead author Vincente Corrales-Medina, MD, of The Ottawa Hospital, said that the increased risk due to pneumonia is comparable to traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

These results highlight the need to prevent pneumonia in people over 65 years of age and in those already at high risk for heart disease, said Dr. Corrales-Medina. In addition, “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.”

The study looked at two age groups—65 and older and 45 to 64—and adjusted for many confounding factors.

The risk associated with pneumonia increased in both age groups, with greater risk in older patients. For those 65 and older, the risk of CVD was four times higher within the first 30 days following hospitalization and risk remained nearly doubled 10 years later.

For example, the 10-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease for a 72-year-old woman with two cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension and smoking) increases from 31% to 90% if she is hospitalized for pneumonia.

For those in the 45 to 64 age group, the increase in risk was nearly 2.5 times within the first 30 days and dissipated after two years. So, for both the middle-aged and older groups, the short-term risk of CVD following hospitalization for pneumonia was notably increased.