A new study revealed that bacterial pneumonia ups the patient's risk of having a heart attack or a stroke compared to those with viral pneumonia.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. It involved nearly 5,000 patients diagnosed with pneumonia between 2007 and 2014.

Bacterial Pneumonia As A Risk Factor For Heart Attack, Stroke

Experts have long known that pneumonia — both bacterial and viral — is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. It occurs when an infection causes inflammation of the air sacs of the lungs. 

However, this new study linked bacterial pneumonia with a higher risk of a major adverse cardiac event such as a heart attack. 

"What we didn't know was which type of pneumonia was more dangerous," stated J. Brent Muhlestein, a cardiovascular researcher and one of the authors of the study. "The results of this study provided a clear answer, which will allow physicians to better monitor patients and focus on reducing their risk of a major adverse cardiac event."

The researchers found that patients who were diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia are 60 percent more likely to experience a heart attack or a stroke than those with viral pneumonia. Out of the nearly 5,000 patients, 34 percent of those who had bacterial pneumonia had a major cardiovascular event within 90 days. In comparison, only 26 percent of those who had viral pneumonia experienced a heart attack or a stroke within the same 90-day period. 

The researchers suspect that bacterial pneumonia causes a greater inflammation of the arteries, causing the build-up of plaque to become unstable and break loose from the artery wall. The loose plaque, then, blocks the passage of the blood, leading to heart attack and stroke. 

Muhlestein hopes that the findings of the study, which was presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago, will inform caregivers to more aggressively treat bacterial pneumonia before it turns into a major cardiac event. 

How To Prevent Bacterial And Viral Pneumonia

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that pneumonia is still the leading cause of death in children 5 years old and below around the world. Symptoms of bacterial and viral pneumonia include coughing, high fever, and difficulty breathing. 

Proper hand hygiene (regularly washing hands) and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces will reduce the risk of getting bacterial and viral pneumonia. Quitting smoking will also prevent the illness. 

Vaccines against some of the bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia are available

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