Hepatitis C Patients Also Have Increased Risk of Heart Disease

In addition to risk for liver damage, people with hepatitis C may also have an increased risk of heart disease, according to a new Johns Hopkins study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

In addition to risk for liver damage, people with hepatitis C may also have an increased risk of heart disease, according to a new Johns Hopkins study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The researchers evaluated the association of chronic hepatitis C and coronary atherosclerosis among 994 HIV-infected and -uninfected men participating in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study. Of the total, 613 were infected with HIV, 70 were infected with both HIV and hepatitis C, and 17 were infected only with hepatitis C.

Even though people infected with HIV are known to have an elevated risk for heart disease, the researchers determined that the results of the study offer strong evidence that individuals with hepatitis C can have cardiovascular damage independent of HIV.

“People infected with hepatitis C are already followed regularly for signs of liver disease, but our findings suggest clinicians who care for them should also assess their overall cardiac risk profile regularly,” study author Wendy Post, MD, MS, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a cardiologist at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, said in a statement

Participants with chronic hepatitis C were more likely to have atherosclerosis, a common forerunner of heart attacks and strokes. Those with higher levels of circulating hepatitis C virus were 50% more likely to have clogged arteries.

In addition, the researchers said their findings raise the question of whether new medications that help patients clear the virus within a few short months could half the formation of plaque and reduce cardiac risk in the long run.

“We believe our findings are relevant to anyone infected with hepatitis C regardless of HIV status,” said study principal investigator Eric Seaberg, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.