COPD Exacerbations May Lead to Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke in CVD Patients

July 4, 2017

Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke following an acute exacerbation if they have a history or at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke following an acute exacerbation if they have a history or at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

According to new research, within the 30-day period following an acute exacerbation, heart attack or stroke odds are 4 times as likely. This was determined through an analysis of data from the Study to Understand Mortality and MorbidITy (SUMMIT) trial. The trial included patients who were previous or current smokers, 40 to 80 years old, have CVD or at risk for CVD, have a forced expiratory volume in 1 second of 50% to 70% of predicted, and a forced vital capacity of below or equal to 70%.

The data analysis resulted in the researchers attempting to identify the best interventions to study for after a COPD exacerbation in those with CVD.

“One approach might be to study currently used cardiac medications, such as antiplatelet agents, statins and/or beta-blockers immediately following COPD exacerbations,” Ken M. Kunisaki, MD, MS, the lead study author and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Health Care System, said in a statement. “Another approach might be to use experimental drugs that specifically reduce inflammation.”

Because no interventions have been discovered, Kunisaki recommends that patients who recently experienced a COPD exacerbation and are noticing heart attack symptoms should seek care immediately and contact their care providers.

“One theory for why this happens is that COPD triggers inflammation and that, in turn, leads to CVD,” Kunisaki said in a statement. “Because COPD exacerbations lead to particularly high levels of inflammation, we wondered if these exacerbations would be linked to higher rates of CVD events.”