Asthma & your heart

look for the signs

Asthma & your heart

While the rising incidence of asthma in itself is a cause of great concern, there is more to worry, given the intrinsic relationship between asthma and more serious diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. There are often cases wherein patients suffering from congestive heart failure often misdiagnose their condition for asthma given the exact resemblance of the symptoms.

Although one may think that there is little in common between asthma and heart disease, the fact remains that there is a link between the two. Several studies reveal that patients who suffer from asthma run a 70 per cent higher risk of suffering from a heart attack than those who don’t. The reasons for this can be several, including the association of both the ailments with high levels of inflammation.
Research indicates that some medicines used to treat asthma increase the risks of heart
ailments in the patient. Beta-agonists, for instance, which help in muscle relaxation, are often used as a rescue medication to provide quick relief to asthma patients. Adrenaline derivatives, all beta-agonists are known to affect the heart in an adverse manner. Also responsible for lowering the potassium level in the blood, they cause disturbances in one’s heart rhythm. Likewise, high doses of corticosteroids, which are also used for the management of asthma, have been linked to causing atrial fibrillation.

Another common mistake is administering asthma inhalers to a patient
suffering from heart failure, which can cause severe heart arrhythmias, even
leading to an early death. Given the similarity in symptoms between asthma and congestive heart failure, including shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, it is imperative that awareness is raised about the importance of consulting a doctor before self-medicating.

Act in timeTimely intervention can easily avert fatal consequences. There are very sensitive blood tests, which can differentiate between the problems originating from cardiac and pulmonary regions. One of these tests is NT-pro BNP estimation, available as a screening point of care test.

Unnecessary admissions at times are avoided by such tests.Proper asthma treatment involves regularly tracking symptoms and keeping a note of how well the lungs are working. Keeping a check on the same helps to adjust one’s asthma treatment plan better. Taking an active role in managing the condition is beneficial in averting asthma attacks, long-term asthma control and helps prevent long-term problems. Stringent measures need to be taken for curbing environmental pollution, stricter implementations of industrial and vehicular norms, enhanced air quality monitoring stations and mass awareness programmes.

(The author is executive director and dean cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi)

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