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Researchers examined data from nearly 237,000 Swedish men. They were followed from age 18 into middle age. The study found that those admitted to the hospital with pneumonia or sepsis (a bacterial infection of the blood) had a six times higher risk of heart disease in the following year.
The rate dropped significantly during the second and third years, but was still more than double. And, by the fourth and fifth years, the risk remained almost two times higher in those who'd been hospitalized for sepsis or pneumonia compared to those who hadn't.
The study was published recently in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
While most patients with sepsis or pneumonia recover from these conditions, many still have inflammation after the infections. Inflammation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke, the researchers said.
"Conventional cardiovascular risk factors (such as obesity, high blood pressure and inactivity) are still important but infection may be the primary source of risk for a limited time," study co-author Scott Montgomery, said in a journal news release.
"Our findings provide another reason to protect against infection and suggest that there is a post-infection window of increased cardiovascular disease risk. We did not study any interventions that could be initiated during this period, but preventative therapies such as statins could be investigated," he said.
Montgomery directs the clinical epidemiology group at Orebro University in Sweden.
-- Robert Preidt
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