A recent study, published in the August issue of Neurology, found that people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) are at a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Additionally, the research also showed that SCI patients were more likely to experience a stroke, according to Med-Page Today. Due to better treatment options for treating other conditions associated with SCI, such as septicemia, renal failure and pneumonia, cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death for SCI patients.
Cardiovascular disease, also referred to as heart disease, comes in many different forms, according to MedLine Plus. Some forms of the disease include the narrowing or blocking of the arteries, problems with valves in the heart or heart failure. According to the researchers, SCI “can amplify certain cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as physical inactivity, dyslipidemia, blood pressure irregularities, chronic inflammation and abnormal glycemic control.”
In the study, the researchers used a cross-sectional sample of more than 60,000 Canadian patients from a health survey. Approximately 354 participants reported having a spinal cord injury as well as cardiovascular disease. Also, about 356 participants reported having a spinal cord injury and having also experienced a stroke. The researchers found that both stroke and heart disease were more widespread among men than women. After adjusting the statistics for sex and age, the researchers found that SCI was “associated with a nearly three- and four-fold increased odds of heart disease and stroke, respectively.”
The researchers say the connection is similar to the connection between smoking and the development of myocardial infarction. They say their findings should help inform physicians who treat SCI to increasingly check for risks of cardiovascular disease. However, the researchers caution that their research was “limited by the cross-sectional design of the study, a lack of detailed neurological and cardiovascular health records and self-reported data.”