Children with common allergies, including hay fever and asthma, are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease, according to researchers. They suggest the allergies increase their blood pressure and cholesterol to levels that are a precursor to heart disease.
The researchers from Northwestern University believe the inflammation caused by these allergies is one of the reasons behind the higher rates of heart disease. They also suggest children with asthma are generally less likely to engage in physical activity, which means higher blood pressure and a build up of cholesterol.
"This study shows that cardiovascular risk starts far earlier in life than we ever realised," said Jonathan Silverberg, lead researcher and associate professor of dermatology at Northwestern University. "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."
The research used data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, a means of collecting information by personal household interviews. Interviews from 13,275 children were used, including a representative sample from all 50 US states. They showed 14% of children had asthma, 12% suffered from eczema and nearly 17% had hay fever. All three forms of allergy were linked with higher rates of overweight or obesity.
Other studies have shown similar results in the past. In 2010, a report published in the American Journal of Cardiology suggested heart disease was linked to wheezing – a common symptom of allergies including asthma.
The report analysed data on nearly 9,000 adults over the age of 20, all of whom participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted between 1988 and 1994. Results showed a link between allergies and heart disease, with sufferers wheezing 2.6 times more likely to experience heart disease; particularly women.
Viola Vaccarino, Professor of Epidemiology at Emory University, told Reuters at the time: "Young women may have a stronger inflammatory response due to allergic conditions than men, perhaps due to oestrogen." However, she added: "I would not alarm the public with the news that common allergic symptoms – other than asthma – increase the risk of coronary heart disease in women, based on this study."
There are around 2.3 million people suffering from heart disease living in the UK and the condition is responsible for roughly 73,000 deaths each year.