What New Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Have Emerged?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of premature death and disability in the general population, and according to the World Health Organization, the incidence of CVD is increasing throughout the world. Conventional risk factors that contribute to the occurrence and worsening of CVD have been identified and widely studied. They include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity. Despite the introduction of measures to prevent and treat these risk factors with lipid-lowering drugs, antihypertensives, antiplatelet drugs, and anticoagulants, the mortality rate related to CVD remains high.

Despite the effectiveness of many currently available treatment options, there are still significant gaps in risk assessment and treatment of CVD.

In the past few years, new coronary risk factors have emerged. They are detailed in an editorial published in The American Journal of Medicine that describes their role and their impact on our cardiovascular health.

Systemic Inflammation

The new coronary risk factors include the following diseases characterized by systemic inflammation.

Gout — Among patients who have experienced a recent flare of gout, the probability of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event such as a myocardial infarction or stroke is increased.

Rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematous — Patients with one or both of these conditions are at higher odds of experiencing concomitant premature and extremely premature coronary artery disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) — Patients with this disease have increased odds of developing coronary artery disease.

Psoriasis — Patients with psoriasis are up to 50% more likely to develop CVD.

Maternal and Childhood Factors

The following maternal and childhood factors are associated with an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease: gestational diabetes; preeclampsia; delivering a child of low birth weight; preterm delivery; and premature or surgical menopause. The factor or factors that increase the risk of coronary artery disease associated with each of these conditions are not known but may be the result of increased cytokine and oxidative stress.

An unusual and yet unexplained association has been observed between migraine headaches with aura in women and incident CVD.

Also of interest is the association of early life trauma and the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes in young and middle-aged individuals who have a history of myocardial infarction.

Transgender patients who present for gender-affirming care are also at increased cardiovascular risk. Among these patients, the increase in coronary artery disease risk may be related to high rates of anxiety and depression.

Environmental Factors

Low socioeconomic status has emerged as a risk factor. Increased psychosocial stressors, limited educational and economic opportunities, and lack of peer influence favoring healthier lifestyle choices may be causative elements leading to enhanced coronary artery disease among individuals with low socioeconomic living conditions.

Air pollution was estimated to have caused 9 million deaths worldwide in 2019, with 62% due to CVD and 31.7% to coronary artery disease. Severely polluted environmental aerosols contain several toxic metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Transient exposure to various air pollutants may trigger the onset of an acute coronary syndrome.

Lifestyle Factors

Long working hours by patients who have experienced a first myocardial infarction increase the risk for a recurrent event, possibly because of prolonged exposure to work stressors.

Skipping breakfast has been linked to increased cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.

Long-term consumption of drinks containing sugar and artificial sweeteners has also been associated with increased cardiovascular mortality.

Recognizing the presence of one or more of these new risk factors could help prompt and improve behaviors for reducing more conventional CV risk factors to a minimum.

This article was translated from Univadis Italy, which is part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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