As if it’s not bad enough to have chronic hepatitis C infection, with the damage that brings to the liver, it seems that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) also brings other health risks. Naga Pothineni, M.D. from the Division of Cardiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science and fellow researchers looked into the cardiovascular health risks of an active hepatitis C infection. They found that hepatitis C raises the risk of heart disease. Delaying hepatitis C treatment will only increase the heart disease risk.
Using a retrospective cohort design, the researchers mined medical data of nearly 25,000 HCV infected and non-infected patients. After noting the patients’ HCV infection status, data was complied about subsequent coronary heart disease events, as well as other health events. There was a clear correlation between HCV infection and a higher incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and chronic lung disease. Interestingly, cholesterol levels were lower in the HCV-infected group, although this did not end up conferring any cardiovascular protection.
Hepatitis C infection can be considered an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease, even after adjusting for other risk factors (such as age, blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking). Patients who were previously infected but successfully treated for HCV were at lower heart disease risk than patients with an ongoing infection. This study demonstrates yet another reason to treat HCV infection and not delay treatment as many payers are proposing.