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That Nagging Bronchitis Could Be Causing More Than a Cough


David P. Faxon, chief of cardiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, tells WebMD that "evidence continues to mount that there is an association between infection and atherosclerosis, but I don't think this means that there is a cause-and-effect relationship."

Faxon, who is president-elect of the American Heart Association, says that he is especially impressed by this new study because it includes all infections, not just periodontal disease. He says that he had questioned why infections in the gums would be more of a risk that an infection was elsewhere in the body. The new study, he says, appears more compelling because it includes various types of infections caused by a number of different microbes.

Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, director of the cardiovascular institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, tells WebMD that the study "may help explain why some people develop coronary artery disease when they don't have the conventional risk factors." Fuster says that this study is the best evidence yet in support of the infection theory, but it still needs to be confirmed before "we can buy into it to make some recommendations."

Although he thinks the link between infection and atherosclerosis is real, Kiechl says that he does not recommend the use of antibiotics to prevent heart attacks. "We recommend against an uncritical use of antibiotics," he tells WebMD. He points out that very little is known about the effect of "eradication of pathogens causing chronic infections ... all preventive strategies have to be tested for efficacy and side effects in controlled intervention trials."

But Kiechl points out that some lifestyle modifications such as stopping smoking, improving dental care, and better nutrition can lessen the incidence of some infections. He says, too, that a daily aspirin can reduce inflammation and may be part of its "cardiovascular protection."

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