Children who live with allergic diseases, in particular asthma and hay fever, have approximately twice the rate of high cholesterol and high blood pressure as their non-allergic peers, a new study says.
The study author warns that higher rates for two key cardiovascular risk factors mean that these kids could be on a course for heart disease from a surprisingly early age. But testing in these areas sooner when children are diagnosed with allergies or asthma could lead to earlier lifestyle interventions, which can reduce the cardiovascular risks.
“Given how common these allergic diseases are in childhood, it suggests we need to screen these children more aggressively to make sure we are not missing high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” said study author Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, an associate professor of dermatology at Northwestern University. “There may be an opportunity to modify their lifestyles and turn this risk around.”
Examining asthma, hay fever and eczema in the United States, as well as other cardiovascular risk factors, Silverberg analyzed data on 13,275 children in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, who were representative of the population of all 50 states.
Asthma occurred in 14 percent of children, eczema in 12 percent and hay fever in 16.6 percent. Asthma, hay fever and eczema were all associated with higher rates of being overweight or obesity, but even after adjusting for that risk factor, children with allergic disease had a much higher risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Silverberg said inflammation occurring in asthma and hay fever might contribute to the higher rates of cardiovascular disease. “This study shows that cardiovascular risk starts far earlier in life than we ever realized,” he says.
The study was published Dec. 8, 2015 in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.