Could seasonal allergies have a connection to heart disease?

June 24, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

The sneezing, wheezing and watery eyes that come with common allergies could be a risk factor for heart disease, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia analyzed data from more than 8,600 adults who participated in a study between 1988 and 1994 and found a link between allergy symptoms and heart disease.

Among the findings:

  • 18 percent of the adults in the study reported wheezing and 46 percent of them said they suffered from a stuffy nose or watery eyes (an allergic condition known as rhinoconjunctivitis)
  • Among those who reported allergic symptoms, heart disease was found in 13 percent of the adults who reported wheezing and 5 percent of those with rhinoconjunctivitis. Among the adults who did not report any allergy symptoms, heart disease was present in 4 percent of the adults.
  • When age and asthma are taken into consideration, researchers found the adults in the study were 2.6 times more likely to have heart disease and there was a 40 percent increased chance of heart disease among those whose allergy symptoms included stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes.
  • The link between allergies and heart disease was most common in women younger than 50 years of age.

The study’s authors suggested more research was needed in this area to further examine the possible link between allergies and heart disease, and were quick to note that the study does not suggest that allergies cause heart disease.

Other studies examining the link between allergies and heart disease have found similar results. For example, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined the link between emergency room visits for heart attack and allergies. The study found a 5 percent higher risk for heart attack on days when the pollen count was high compared to lower pollen count days in May and June.

One theory for the possible link between heart attack and allergies is that the inflammatory response that comes with allergies could potentially lead to a thickening of the artery walls, eventually leading to heart disease.

Others note that allergy sufferers often visit the doctor more and those additional checkups could lead to a discovery of high blood pressure or other heart disease. Still others note that allergy sufferers, particularly those who list wheezing as a symptom, have been found to have a greater burden of other risk factors (such as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity) associated with heart disease compared to those who are allergy-free.

If you find yourself dealing with common allergies during the spring and summer, some tips to help get you through the season include:

  • Keep doors and windows closed and running the air conditioner during pollen season, particularly on high pollen count days.
  • Change your clothes and shower after being outside.
  • Keep an eye on pollen count levels in your area to help you plan your day. You may want to consider staying indoors on high pollen count days.

Over-the-counter allergy medications can also help reduce symptoms, but if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, be cautious. The American Heart Association suggests using antihistamines for allergies instead of a decongestant. You should also check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications for allergies.

To reduce your risk for heart disease, take steps to live healthier, such as eating a healthy diet low in fat and sodium, exercising at least 30 minutes per day, reducing stress and getting a good night’s sleep.

We’re committed to proactive cardiac care in our community. Learn more about our heart screenings and prevention.

To find out if you’re at risk for heart disease, take an online HeartAware assessment.

Learn more about heart and vascular services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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