by Mia de Graaf, US Health Editor
Asthma may not be an obvious cause of a heart attack – it affects the respiratory system (airways), not the cardiovascular system (arteries).
But studies have shown that asthma can double the risk of a heart attack.
The reason for the link is unclear, but likely boils down to inflammation and swelling.
Asthma, an inflammatory disease of the lungs, causes the lining of air passages to swell, restricting the flow of oxygen through the body. It affects more than 25 million Americans, according to CDC data.
This in turn can affect blood flow.
A study by the Mayo Clinic in 2014 found that anyone who has sought asthma treatment in the last year, or who has suffered regular symptoms for a year, has double the risk of a heart attack.
The study eliminated people who also suffered COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is common in asthma sufferers and increases the risk of a heart attack by restricting oxygen flow.
This was not Erica Garner’s first heart attack.
The young activist suffered her first shortly after giving birth; during her pregnancy she’d been diagnosed with an enlarged heart (peripartum cardiomyopathy).
Asthma is the most common life-threatening condition for pregnant women.
It can lead to high blood pressure, premature birth and death. It can also affect a baby’s development, birth weight, and can cause stillbirth.
Restricted oxygen flow is also the primary causes of peripartum cardiomyopathy, which is exacerbated by the baby’s need for oxygen and essential nutrients.