Health, Life

Suffering From Celiac Disease Could Increase Risk For Health Complications Such As Heart Attack And Stroke

Medical News Today

People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or know of someone who has need to be educated about it. This is an autoimmune condition that brings a severe intolerance to gluten. Patients may seek out the help of a health expert to learn how to protect their cardiovascular health. Even without common risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, those who have celiac disease are said to be more prone to a stroke or a heart attack.

There some of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. These are actually not as common in those who have celiac disease. However, a new study suggests that those with celiac disease still have higher chances of experiencing medical crises such as heart attacks and strokes.

The new study, published January 30 in BMJ Medicine studied data on nearly 500,000 adults in the ongoing UK Biobank project. Included in the list were 2,083 of those diagnosed with celiac disease at the beginning of the study. There was also the other 1,435 who developed the autoimmune disease in the follow-up period. No one had a cardiovascular disease known.

There was follow-up period of about 12.5 years after. This was when the researchers were able to point out more than 40,000 cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks, strokes, and another one called coronary artery disease. The latter is a damage or some blockages in the heart’s major blood vessels. This number included 218 events among those suffering from the said auto-immune disease.

Generally, those who have celiac disease were 27 percent more likely to see a cardiovascular disease event than those without it. This came after they included a broad range of factors that might increase risk like eating and exercise habits, preexisting medical conditions, and traditional risk factors like the usual high blood pressure and obesity.

“People with celiac disease should be aware there may be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and should discuss any concerns with their doctor,” lead study author, Megan Conroy, said. She is a public health researcher at the University of Oxford in England.

Those Who Have Celiac Disease Are More Prone to Few Traditional Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Talks like these are particularly crucial right now because the study made saw that those with celiac disease had a higher risk even when they weren’t found to have traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The increased risk connected to celiac disease was even clearer to those who had any of the usual risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Researchers particularly looked at the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” traditional risk factors such as smoking, s stagnant lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar.

There were more of those with celiac disease who had ideal cardiovascular risk scores according to the usual risk factors than those without it: 23 percent as opposed to only 14 percent. Moreover, only 5 percent of those with celiac disease were high risk, as opposed to the 9 percent of others who were part of the study.

Among all the low-risk participants who were part of the study, those with celiac disease were 64 percent more prone to go through events such as heart attacks and strokes than those living without the disease.

Some Autoimmune Conditions Linked to Increased Risk for Heart Disease

It must be noted that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment that was made to prove whether or how celiac disease might directly affect or bring about cardiovascular disease. There was also another and it was that researchers looked at the cardiovascular risk factors just once, and this was when the participants joined the study, and their risk could have possibly changed. Also, researchers didn’t have sufficient data on whether or not those who had celiac disease had a gluten-free diet.

Even with the limitations seen, the findings still backup older studies that suggest how autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, may make them more prone to heart attacks and strokes, said Nathalie Conrad, PhD. She is an autoimmune disease researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. She also wasn’t part of the new study made. For instance, Dr. Conrad led a study published in the journal Lancet in August 2022 that found a close link between autoimmune diseases and a 56 percent higher chances of experiencing cardiovascular disease events.

“The findings from this new study show that excess cardiovascular risk in celiac disease cannot solely be explained by conventional cardiovascular disease risk factors,” Conrad stated.

What Needs to be Done for Those with Celiac Disease

Some health experts might choose to address usual risk factors such high blood pressure more aggressively for those with celiac disease in order to lower their risks, Conrad said. There are medications available to manage the inflammation in those with autoimmune diseases. These made be added protection for the heart and blood vessels, but further research is required in order for experts to examine this kind of course of action, Conrad also said.

“There are no specific prevention measures for patients with autoimmune conditions or celiac disease,” Conrad further explained. “I am sure this will come. But for now, the best option would be for patients to follow the general screening and prevention measures for conventional cardiovascular disease risk factors.”