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Medical Advances

Heart Risk at an Early Age

Allergies, Asthma and the Heart

In previous research, Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH, associate professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, showed that adults with allergic disease have a higher risk of heart disease. Now, the Northwestern Medicine scientist has uncovered a connection in children too. New research from Dr. Silverberg suggests that children with allergic diseases, including asthma, hay fever and eczema, are twice as likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The association between allergic diseases and certain risk factors for heart diseases, including chronic inflammation, impaired physical activity and obesity, is not new. However, this was the first study to connect allergic disease to heart risk specifically. It should be noted that although scientists controlled for obesity in order to establish the specific effect of allergic disease on high blood pressure and high cholesterol, inflammation and impaired physical activity were still potentially contributing factors.

Dr. Silverberg’s research indicates not only that people with allergic diseases are at risk for heart disease far earlier than previously suspected, but also that a greater number could be affected. Allergic diseases are very common in childhood: 14 percent of children have asthma, 12 percent have eczema and 16.6 percent suffer from hay fever. 

As such, close and aggressive monitoring of heart disease risk will be increasingly important to ensure that children have the earliest possible opportunities to adjust lifestyle to minimize risk.